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Full text of "Through the magic door"

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THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 



TVORKS BY A. CONAJ.V DOYLE. 


TUE \\'HITE COMPANY. 
1-IICAI-I CLARKE. 
THE REFVGEE
. 
RODNEY STONE. 
UNCLE BERNAC: A !\.IEMORY OF THE. EMPIRE. 
THE GREAT SHADOW. 
ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES. 
MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOL
IES. 
THE SIGN OF FOUR. 
A STUDY IN SCAHLET. 
THE FIRM OF GIRDLESTO
E. 
THE PARASITE. 
EXPLOITS OF BRIGADIER GERARD. 
CAPTAIN OF THE POLESTAR. 
ROUND THE RED LA)IP. 
THE STAR K M L'NRO LETTERS. 
THE DOINGS OF RAFFLES HAW. 
. 
THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO. 
SONGS OF ACTION. 
A DUET. 
THE GREEN FLAG, AND OTHER STORIES OF \\" AR 
AND SPORT. 
THE GREAT BOER WAR. 
ADVENTURES OF GERARD. 
THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES. 
RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES. 
SIR NIGEL. 




 



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THE AUTHOR'S STUDY. 


[ Front Ïfpiece. 



THROUGH 


THE 


MAGIC 


DOOR 


BY 


ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE 


AUTHOR OF 


"THE WHITE cOIllPANY," ETC., ETC. 



 
IV/TH SIXTEEN ILLUSTRATIOSS 
Ù 


LONDON 
SMITH, ELDER & CO., I 5, WATERLOO PLACE 
19 0 7 


(All ri'gMs reserved) 



PRINTED BY 
WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED 
LONDON AND REcCLES 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 


THE AUTHOR'S STTTI". 


F'}'M1 ti
piecp 


TO FACE: PAGF 
" CARLYLE, IllS ::\hKD STARVING FOR 'V
-\XT OF FOOD, DE- 
VOURED THE:\! AT THE RATE OF ONE A DAY" 6 


"'VE SEE THE HEAVY FORM ROLLIXG, WE HEAR IT
 
PUFFIXG" . 1 0 


THOMAS BABIXGTON, BAROX l\fAC.A.Ur
A y 14 


SIR 'V ALTER SCOTT . 46 


h THE RO.-\RIXG 'No, Snt!' CA
n
 TO SILE
CE RBI" . 50 


SAMUEL JOIINSOX, LL.D. . G4 


EDW_\RD GIBBON 78 


SAMUEL PEPYR . 82 


"PEPYS, A RIPE SCHOI
A.R WHO ACCUMULATED THREE 
THOUSAND V OLU:MES " 8G 


"THE DYIYG GLADIATOR LISTENED WITH I
EYT INTEREST" 104 


NATHANIEL HAWTRORN}
 . 120 


S.-\
UEL RrcHARDsO
 142 


. 



VI LJS1' OF ILLUSTRA1'IONS 


TO F..\CR PAC"- 
h' YES, BUT YOU HAVR OMITTED Two J
 A FOJn XF..\R 
DlEPPE ", . 1
4 


CH.\RJ.I
S ROTIERT D.\RWIN, LL.D., F.R.R.. 


ROE}
UT LOUIS STEVJ.

SO
 


. 242 


258 



THROUGH l
HE MAGIC DOOR 


I 


I CARE not how humble your bookshelf may 
be, nor how lowly the room which it adorns. 
Close the door of that l
oom behind you, shut 
off with it all the cares of the outer world, 
plunge back into the soothing company of the 
great dead, and then you are through the 
magic portal into that fair land whither worry 
and vexation can follow you no more. You 
have left all that is vulgar and all that is 
sordid behind you. There stand your noble, 
silent comrades, waiting in their ranks. Pass 
your eye down their files. Choose your man. 
And then you have but to hold up your hand to 
him and away you go together into dreamland. 
Surely there would be something eelie about 
B 



2 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


a line of books wero it llot that familiarity has 
deadened our sellse of it. EacIl is a mummi- 
fied soul embalrned in cere-cloth and natron 
of leather and printer's ink. Eacll cover of 
a true book enfolds the concentrated essence 
of a man. The personalities of the writers 
have faded into the thinnest shadows, as 
their bodies into impalpable dust, yet here 
are their very spirits at your command. 
It is our familiarity also which has les- 
sened our perception of the miraculous good 
fortune which we onjoy. Let us supposo that 
we were suddenly to learn that Shakespeare 
had returned to earth, and that he would 
favour any of us with an hour of his wit and 
his fancy. How eagerly we would seek him 
out! And yet we have him-the very best 
of him-at our elbows from week to week, 
and hardly trouble ourselves to put out our 
hands to beckon him down. No matter what 
mood a man may be in, wIlen once he has 
passed through the magic door he can sum- 
mon the world's greatest to sympathize with 
him in it. If he be thoughtful, here are the 



THROUGH THE l\IAGIC DOOR 3 


kings of thought. If he be dreamy, here are 
the masters of fancy. Or is it amusement 
that he lacks? He can signal to anyone of 
the world's great stoley-tellers, and out comes 
the dead man and holds him enthralled by the 
hour. The dead are such good company that 
one may come to think too little of the living. 
It is a real and a pressing danger '\vith many 
of us, that we should never find our o,vn 
thoughts and our own souls, but be ever ob.. 
sessed by the dead. Yet second..hand romance 
and second-hand emotion are surely botter 
than the dull, soul-killing monotony which 
life brings to most of the human raco. But 
best of all when the dead man's wisdom and 
the dead man's example give us guidance and 
strength in the living of our own strenuous 
days. 
Come through the magic door with me, 
and sit here on the green settee, where you 
can see the old oak case with its untidy lines 
of volumes. Smoking is not forbidden. 
Would you care to hear me talk of them? 
Well, I ask nothing better, for there is no 



4 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


volume there which is not a dear, personal 
friend, and what can a man talk of more 
pleasantly than that? The other books are 
over yonder, but these are my own favourites 
-the ones I care to re-read and to have near 
Iny elbow. There is not a tattered cover 
which does not bring its mellow memories 
to me. 
Some of them represent those little sacri- 
fices which make a possession dearer. You 
see the line of old, brown volumes at the 
bottom? Everyone of those represents a 
lunch. They were bought in my student 
days, when times were not too affiuent. Three- 
pence was my modest allowance for my mid- 
day sandwich and glass of beer; but, as luck 
would have it, my way to the classes led past 
the most fascinating bookshop in the world. 
Outside the door of it stood a large tub filled 
with an ever-changing litter of tattered books, 
with a card above which announced that any 
volume therein could be purchased for the 
identical sum which I carried in my pocket. 
As I approached it a combat ever raged 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 5 


betwixt the hunger of a youthful body and 
that of an inquiring and omnivorous mind. 
Five times out of six the animal won. 
But when the mental prevailed, then there 
was an entrancing five minutes' digging 
among out-of-date almanacs, volumes of 
Scotch theology, and tables of logarithms, 
until one found something which made it all 
wortll while. If you will look over these 
titles, you will see that I did not do so very 
badly. Four volumes of Gordon's" Tacitus" 
(life is too short to read originals, so long as 
there are good translations), Sir William 
Temple's Essays, Addison's works, Swift's 
"Tale of a Tub," Clarendon's "History," 
" Gil BIas," Buckingham's Poems, Churchill's 
Poems, " Life of Bacon "-not so bad for the 
old threepenny tub. 
They were not always in such plebeian 
company. Look at the thickness of the I'ich 
leather, and the l'ichness of the dim gold 
lettering. Once they adorned the shelves of 
some noble library, and even among the odd 
almanacs and tIle sermons they bore the 


. 



6 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


traces of their former greatness, like the 
faded silk dress of the reduced gentlewoman, 
a present pathos but a glory of the past. 
Reading is made too easy nowadays, with 
cheap paper editions and free libraries. A 
man does not appreciate at its full worth the 
thing that comes to him without effort. Who 
now ever gets the thrill which Carlyle felt 
when he hurried home with the six volumes 
of Gibbon's "History" under his arm, his 
mind just starving for want of food, to devour 
them at the rate of one a day? A book 
should be your very own before you can really 
get the taste of it, and unless you have worked 
for it, you ,viII never have the true inward 
pride of possession. 
If I had to choose the one book out of all 
that line from whicIl I have had most pleasure 
and most IJrofit, I should point to yonder 
stained copy of Macaulay's "Essays." It 
seems entwined into my whole life as I look 
backwards. It was my comrade in my student 
days, it has been with me on the sweltering 
Gold Coast, and it formed part of my humble 



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kit \vhen I went a-whaling in the Arctic. 
Honest Scotch harpooners have addled their 
brains over it, and you may still see the 
grease stains where the second engineer 
grappled with Frederick the Great. Tattered 
and dirty and ,vorn, no gilt-eaged morocco- 
bound volume could ever take its place for me. 
What a noble gateway this book forms 
through which one may approach the study 
either of letters or of history! Milton, 
Machiavelli, Hallam, Southey, Bunyan, 
Byron, Johnson, Pitt, Hampden, Clive, Hast- 
ings, Chatham-what nuclei. for thought! 
With a good grip of eacll how pleasant and 
easy to fill in all that lies between. The short, 
vivid sentences, the broad sweep of allusion, 
the exact det
il, they all throw a glamour 
round the subject and should make the least 
studious of readers desire to go further. If 
Macaulay's hand cannot lead a man upon 
those pleasant paths, then, indeed, he may 
give up all hope of ever finding them. 
When I was a senior schoolboy this book 
-not this very volume, for it had an even 



8 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


more tattel
ed predecessor-opened up a new 
wOl
ld to me. History had been a lesson 
and abhorrent. Suddenly the task and the 
drudgery became an incursion into an en- 
chanted land, a land of colour and beauty, 
with a kind, wise guide to point the path. 
In that great style of his I loved even the 
faults-indeed, now that I come to think of 
it, it was the faults which I loved best. 
No sentence could be too stiff with 1
icl1 
embroidery, and no antithesis too flowery. 
It pleased me to read that " a universal shout 
of laughter from the Tagus to the Vistu]a 
informed the Pope that the days of the 
crusades were past," and I was delighted to 
learn that "Lady J erningham kept a vase 
in which people placed foolish verses, and 
Mr. Dash wrote verses which were fit to bo 
placed in Lady Jerningham's vase." Those 
,vere the kind of sentences which used to 
fill me with a vague but enduring pleasure, 
like choras which linger in the musician's ear. 
A man likes a plainer literary diet as he 
grows older, but still as I glance over the 



THROUGI-I THE MAGIC DOOR 9 


Essays I am filled with admiration and 
wonder at the alternate power of handling a 
great subject, and of adorning it by delight- 
ful detail-just a bold s,veep of the bl
usb, 
and then the most delicate stippling. As be 
leads you down the path, he for ever indicates 
the alluring side-tracks which branch away 
from it. An admirable, if somewhat old- 
fashioned, literary and historical education 
might be effected by working through every 
book which is alluded to in the Essays. I 
should be curious, however, to know the 
exact age of the youth when he came to the 
end of his studies. 
I wisll J\facaulay bad written a historical 
novel. I am convinced that it would have 
been a great one. I do not know if he had 
the power of dl
awing an imaginary charactel', 
but he certainly had the gift of l
econstruct- 
ing a dead celebrity to a l
ernarkable degree. 
Look at the simple half-paragraph in which 
he gives us J ohllson and his atmosphere. 
Was ever a more definite picture given in a 
shortel
 space- 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR II 


It is etched into YOUl- memory for ever. 
I can remember that when I visited 
London at the age of sixteen the first thing 
I did after housing my luggage was to make 
a pilgrimage to Macaulay's grave where he 
lies in "\Vestminster Abbey, just under tho 
shadow of Addison, and amid the dust of 
the poets whom he had loved so well. It 
was tho one great object of interest whicl1 
London held for me. And so it might well 
be, when I think of all I owe him. It is 
not merely the knowledge and the stimulation 
of Il-esh interests, but it is the charming 
gentlemanly tone, the broad, liberal outlook, 
the general absence of bigotry and of pre- 
judice. My judgment no\v confirms all that 
I felt for him then. 
My four-volume edition of the History 
stands, as you see, to the right of the Essays. 
Do you l-ecollect the third chapter of that 
work-the one which l-econstructs the England 
of the seventeentll century? It has always 
seemed to me the very high-water mark of 
Macaulay's powers, with its marvellous 



12 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


mixtul-e of precise fact and romantic phrasing. 
The population of towns, the statistics of 
commerce, the prosaic facts of life are all 
transIDllted into wonder and interest by the 
handling of the master. You feel that be 
could have cast a glamour over the multi- 
plication table had he set himself to do so. 
Take a single concrete example of what I 
mean. The fact that a Londoner in the 
country, or a countryman in London, felt 
equally out of place in those days of difficult 
travel, ,vould seem to hardly require stating, 
and to afford no opportunity of leaving a 
strong impression upon the reader's mind. 
See what Macaulay makes of it, though it is 
no 1110re than a hundred other paragraphs 
which discuss a hundred various points- 


"A cockney in a rural village, was stared 
at as much as if he had intruded into a kraal 
of Hottentots. On the other hand, when the 
lord of a Lincolnshire 01- Shropshire Inanor 
appeared in Fleet Street, he was as easily 
distinguished from the resident population as 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOI{ 13 


a Turk 01" a Lascar. His dress, his gait, his 
accent, the manner in which he gazed at the 
shops, stumbled into gutters, ran against the 
porters, and stood under the waterspouts, 
marked him out as an excellent subject for 
the operations of swindlers and banterers. 
Bullies jostled him into the kennel, Hackney 
coachmen splashed him from head to foot, 
thieves explored with perfect security the 
huge pockets of his horseman's coat, while he 
stood entranced by the splendour of the Lord 

fayor's Show. Money-droppers, sore from 
the cart's tail, introduced themselves to him, 
and appeared to him the most honest friendly 
gentlemen that he had ever seen. Painted 
women, the l"efuse of Lewkner Lane and 
vVhetstone Park, passed themselves on him 
for countesses and maids of honour. If he 
asked his way to St. James', his informants 
sent him to 1Iile End. If he went into a 
shop, he was instantly discerned to be a :fit 
purchaser of everything that nobody else 
would buy, of second-hand embroidery, 
copper rings, and watches that would not 



14 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


go. If he l.ambled into any fashionable 
coffee-house, he became a mark for the 
insolent derision of fops, and the grave 
waggery of Templars. Enraged and morti.. 
fied, he soon returned to his mansion, and 
thero, in the homage of his tenants and tho 
conversation of his boon companions, found 
consolation for the vexations and humiliations 
which he had undergone. There he was 
once more a great man, and saw nothing 
above himself except when at tho assizes he 
took his seat on the bonch near the Judge, or 
when at the muster of the militia he saluted 
the Lord Lieutenant." 


On the whole, I should put this detached 
chapter of description at the very head of his 
Essays, though it happens to occur in another 
volume. The History as a whole does not, as 
it seems to me, reach the same level as the 
shorter articles. One cannot but feel that it 
is a brilliant piece of special pleading from a 
fervid Whig, and that there must be more to 
be said for the other side th
u is ther
 set fortI]. 



" 

 


THO
IAS BABI
GTO
, BARON lIIACA17LAY. 
From tIle f}ainting by Sir Franci
 Grant, P.ll.A. 


-, 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR IS 


Some of the Essays are tinged also, no doubt, 
by his o\vn political and religious limitations. 
The best are those which get right away 
into the broad fields of literature and philo- 
sophy. Johnson, Walpole, Madame Ð'Arblay, 
Addison, and the two great Indian ones, Clive 
and Warren Hastings, are my own favourites. 
Frederick the Great, too, must surely stand 
in the first rank. Only one would I wisll to 
eliminate. It is the diabolically clever criti- 
cism upon l\Iontgomcry. One would have 
,vished to think that l\lacaulay's heart was 
too kind, and his soul too gentle, to pen so 
bitter an attack. Bad work will sink of its 
own weight. It is not necessary to souse 
the author as well. One would think more 
highly of the man if he had not done that 
savage bit of work. 
I don't know why talking of Macaulay 
always makes me think of Scott, whose books, 
in a faded, olive-backed line, have a shelf, 
you see, of their own. . Perhaps it is that 
they both had so great an influence, and 
woke such admiration in me. Or 11erbaps 



16 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


it is the real similarity in the minds and 
characters of the two men. You don't see 
it, you say ? Well, just think of Scott's 
"Border Ballads," and then of Macaulay's 
" Lays." The machines must be alike, when 
the products are so similar. Each was the 
only man who could possibly have written 
the poems of the other. What swing and 
dash in both of them! vVhat a love of all 
that is manly and noble and martial! So 
simple, and yet so strong. But there are 
minds on which strength and simplicity are 
thrown away. They think that unless a 
thing is obscure it must be superficial, where- 
as it is often the shallow stream which is 
turbid, and the deep which is clear. Do you 
remember the fatuous criticism of Matthew 
Arnold upon the glorious "Lays," where lIe 
calls out" Is this poetry? " after quoting-- 


" And how can man die better 
Than facing fearful odds 
For the ashes of his fathers 
And the Temples of his Gods?" 


In trying to show that 1\1acaulay had not 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 17 


the poetic sense he was l'eally showing that 
he himself had not the dramatio sense. The 
baldness of the idea and of the language had 
evidently offended him. But this is exactly 
where the true merit lies. Macaulay is 
giving the l
ough, blunt words with which 
a simple-minded soldier appeals to two com- 
rades to help him in a deed of valour. Any 
high-flown sentiment would have been abso- 
lutely out of charaoter. The lines are, I 
think, taken with their context, admirable 
ballad poetry, and have just the dramatio 
quality and sense ,vhich a ballad poet must 
have. That opinion of Arnold's shook my 
faith in his judgment, and yet I would forgive 
a good deal to the man who wrote- 


"One more charge and then be dumb, 
'\Vben the forts of Folly fall, 
May the victors when they come, 
Find my body near the wall." 


Not a bad verse that for one's life aspiration. 
This is one of the things which human 
society has not yet understood-the value of 
a noble, inspiriting text. When it does we 


c 



18 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


shall meet them everywhere engraved on 
appropriate places, and our progress through 
the streets will be brightened and ennobled 
by one continual series of beautiful mental 
impulses and images, 1.eßected into our souls 
from the printed thoughts ,vhich meet our 
eyes. To think that we should walk with 
empty, listless minds while all this splendid 
material is running to waste. I do not mean 
mere Scriptural texts, for they do not bear 
the same meaning to all, though what human 
creature can fail to be spurred onwards by 
" Work while it is day, for the night cometh 
when no man can work." But I mean those 
bealltiful thoughts-who can say that they 
are uninspired thoughts ?-which may bo 
gathered from a hundred authors to match 
a hundred uses. A fine thought in fine 
language is a most precious jewel, and shoulù 
not be hid away, but be exposed for use and 
ornament. To take the nearest example, 
there is a horse-trough across the road from 
my house, a plain stone trough, and no man 
could pass it with any feelings save vague 



THROUGH 'rHE IVIAGIC DOOR 19 


discontent at its ugliness. But suppose that 
on its front slab you print the verse of 
Coleridge- 


"He prayeth best who loveth best 
All things, both great and smalJ, 
For the dear Lord who fashioned him 
I-Ie knows and loveth all." 


I fear I may misquote, for I have 110t 
"The Ancient 
1ariner" at my elbo\v, but 
even as it stands does it not elevate the 
horse-trough ? We all do this, I suppose, 
in a small way for ourselves. There are few 
men who have not some chosen quotations 
printed on their study mantelpieces, or, 
better still, in their hearts. Carlyle's tran- 
scription of "Rest! Rest! Shall I not have 
all Eternity to rest in!" is a pretty good 
spur to a weary man. But what we need is 
a more general application of the sallie thing 
for public and not for private use, until 
people understand that a graven tllOUght is 
as beautiful an ornament as any graven 
image, striking through the eye right deep 
down into the soul. 



20 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


However, all this has nothing to do with 
Macaulay's glorious lays, save that when you 
want some flowers of manliness and patriotism 
you can pluck quite a bouquet out of those. 
I had the good fortune to learn the Lay of 
Roratius off by heart when I was a cbild, 
alld it stamped itself on my plastic mind, so 
that even now I can reel off almost the whole 
of it. Goldsmith said that in conversation 
he was like the man who had a thousand 
pounds in the bank, but could not compete 
with the man who had an actual sixpence in 
bis pocket. So the ballad that you bear in 
your mind outweighs the whole bookshelf 
which waits for reference. But I want you 
now to move your eye a little farther down 
the shelf to the line of olive-green volumes. 
That is my edition of Scott. But surely I 
must give you a little breathing space before 
I venture upon them. 



II 


IT is a great thing to start life with a small 
number of really good books which are your 
very own. You may not appreciate them at 
first. You may pine for your novel of crude 
and unadulterated adventure. You may, and 
will, give it the preference when you can. 
But the dull days come, and the rainy days 
come, and always you are driven to fill up the 
chinks of your reading with the worthy books 
,vhich wait so patiently for your notice. And 
then suddenly, on a day which marks an 
epoch in your life, yon understand the differ- 
ence. You see, like a flash, how the one 
stands for nothing and the other for literature. 
From that day onwards you may return to 
your crudities, but at least you do so with 
some standard of comparison in your mind. 
You can never be the same as you, were 



22 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


before. Then gradually the good thing 
becomes more dear to you; it builds itself 
up with your growing mind; it becomes a 
part of your better self, and so, at last, you 
can look, as I do now, at the old covers 
and love them for all that they have meant 
in the past. Yes, it was the olive-green line 
of Scott's novels which started me on to 
rhapsody. They were the first books I ever 
owned-long, long before I could appreciate 
or even understand them. But at last I 
realized what a treasure they were. In my 
boyhood I read them by sUl'reptitious candle- 
ends in the dead of the night, when the sense 
of crime added a new zest to the story. Per- 
haps you have observed that my "Ivanhoe" 
is of a different edition from the others. The 
first copy was left in the grass by the side of 
a stream, fell into the water, and was eventu- 
ally picked up three days later, swollen and 
decomposed, upon a mud-bank. I think I 
may say, however, that I had worn it out 
before I lost it. Indeed, it was perhaps as 
well that it was some Yf\ars before it was 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 23 


replaced, for my instinct was always to read 
it again instead of breaking fresh ground. 
I l'emember the late James Payn telling 
the anecdote that he and two literary friends 
agreed to write down what scene in fiction 
they thought the most dramatic, and that on 
examining the papers it was found that all 
three had chosen the same. It was the 
moment when the unknown knight, at Ashby- 
de-Ia-Zouch, riding past the pavilions of tho 
lesser men, strikes with the sbarp end of his 
lance, in a challenge to mortal combat, the 
shield of the formidable Templar. It was, 
indeed, a splendid moment! What matter 
that no Templar was allowed by the rules 
of his Order to take part in so secular and 
frivolous an affair as a tournament? It is 
the privilege of great masters to make things 
so, and it is a churlish thing to gainsay it. 
Was it not Wendell Holmes who described 
the prosaic man, who enters a drawing-room 
with a couple of facts, like ill-conditioned bull- 
dogs at bis heels, ready to let them loose Oll 
any play of fancy? The great writel' can 



24 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


never go wrong. If Shakespeare gives a sea- 
coast to Bohemia, or if Victor Hugo calls an 
Engljsh prize-fighter Mr. Jim-Jobn-Jack- 
well, it was so, and that's an end of it. 
"There is no second line of rails at that 
point," said an editor to a minor author. "I 
make a second line," said the author; and 
he was within his rights, if he can carry his 
readers' conviction with him. 
But this is a digression from" Ivanhoe." 
What a book it is I The second greatest 
historical novel in our language, I think. 
Every successive reading bas deepened my 
admiration for it. Scott's soldiers are always 
as good as his women (with exceptions) are 
weak; but here, while the soldiers are at 
their very best, the romantic figure of 
Rebecca redeems the female side of the story 
from the usual commonplace routine. Scott 
drew manly men because he was a manly man 
himself, and found the task a sympathetic 
one. 
He drew young heroines because a con- 
vention demanded it, which he had never the 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 25 


hardihood to break. It is only when we get 
him for a dozen chapters on end with a 
minimum of petticoat-in the long stretch, 
for example, from the beginning of the 
Tournament to the end of the Friar Tuck 
incident-that we realize the height of con- 
tinued romantic narrative to which he could 
attain. I don't think in the whole range of 
our literature we have a finer sustained flight 
than that. 
There is, I admit, an intolerable amount 
of redundant verbiage in Scott's novels. 
Those endless and unnecessary introductions 
make the shell very thick before you come 
to the oyster. They are often admirable in 
themselves, learned, witty, picturesque, but 
with no relation or proportion to the story 
,vhich they are supposed to introduce. Like 
so much lof our English fiction, they are very 
good matter in a very bad place. Digres- 
sion and want of method and order are 
traditional national sins. Fancy introducing 
an essay on how to live on nothing a year 
as Thackeray did in "Vanity Fair," or 


. 



26 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


sandwiching in a ghost story as Dickens has 
dared to do. As well might a dramatic author 
rush up to the footlights and begin telling anec- 
dotes while his play was suspending its action 
and his characters waiting wearily behind him. 
It is all wrong, though every great name can 
be quoted in support of it. Our sense of form 
is lamentably lacking, and Sir Walter sinned 
with the rest. But get past all that to a 
crisis in the real story, and who finds the 
terse phrase, the short fire-word, so surely as 
he? Do you remember when the reckless 
Sergeant of Dragoons stands at last before 
the grim Puritan, upon whose head a price 
has been set: "A thousand marks or a bed 
of heather!" says he, as he draws. The 
Puritan draws also: "The Sword of the Lord 
and of Gideon!" says he. No verbiage 
there! But the very spirit of either man and 
of either party, in the few stern words, which 
haunt your mind. "Bows and Bills! " cry 
the Saxon Varangians, as the Moslem horse 
charges home. You feel it is just what they 
must have cried. Even more terse and 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 27 


businesslike was the actual battle-cry of the 
fathers of the same men on that long-drawn 
day when they fought under the "Red Dragon 
of Wessex" on the low l.idge at Hastings. 
" Out! Out!" they roared, as the Norman 
chivalry broke upon them. Terse, strong, 
prosaic-the very genius of the race was in 
the cry. 
Is it that the higher emotions are not 
there? Or is it that they are damped down 
and covered over as too precious to be 
exhibited? Something of each, perhaps. 
I once met the widow of the man who, as a 
young signal midshipman, had taken Nelson's 
famous message from the Signal Yeoman and 
communicated it to the ship's company. The 
officers were impressed. The men were not. 
" Duty!" they muttered. " We've always 
done it. Why not? " Anything in the least 
high-falutin' would depress, not exalt, a 
British company. It is the under statement 
which delights them. German troops can 
march to battle singing Luther's hymns. 
Frenchmen will work themselves into a frenzy 



28 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


by a song of glory and of Fatherland. Our 
martial poets need not trouble to imitate-or 
at least need not imagine that if they do so 
they will ever supply a want to the British 
soldier. Our sailors working the heavy guns 
in South Africa sang: "Here's another lump 
of sugar for the Bird." I saw a regiment go 
into action to the I.efrain of" A little bit oft 
the top." The martial poet aforesaid, unless 
he had the genius and the insight of a 
Kipling, would have wasted a good deal of 
ink before he had got down to such chants as 
these. The Russians are not unlike us in 
this respect. I remember reading of somo 
column ascending a breach and singing lustily 
from start to finish, until a few survivors were 
left victorious upon the crest with the song 
still going. A spectator inquired what WOll- 
drous chant it was which had warmed them 
to such a deed of valour, and he found that 
the exact meaning of the words, endlessly 
repeated, was "Ivan is in the garden picking 
cabbages." The fact is, I suppose, that a 
mere monotonous sound may take the place 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 29 


of the tom-tom of savage warfare, and hypno- 
tize the soldier into valour. 
Our cousins across the Atlantic have the 
same blending of the comic with their most 
serious work. Take the songs which they 
sang during the most bloody war which the 
Anglo-Celtic race has ever waged-the only 
war in which it could have been said that 
they were stretched to their uttermost and 
showed their tl.ue form-" Tramp, tramp, 
tramp," "John Brown's Body," "Marching 
through Georgia "-all had a playful humour 
running through them. Only one exception 
do I know, and that is the most tremendous 
war-song I can recall. Even an outsider in 
time of peace can hardly read it without emo- 
tion. I mean, of course, Julia Ward Howe's 
" War-Song of the Republic," with the choral 
opening line: "Mine eyes have seen the 
glory of the coming of the Lord." If that 
were ever sung upon a battlefield the effect 
must have been terrific. 
A long digression, is it not? But that is 
the worst of the thoughts at the other side of 



3 0 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


the l\1:agic Door. You can't pull one out 
without a dozen being entangled with it. 
But it was Scott's soldiers that I was talking 
of, and I was saying that there is nothing 
theatrical, no posing, no heroics (the thing of 
all others which the hero abominates), but 
just the short bluff word and the simple 
lllanly ways, with every expression and meta- 
l)hor drawn from within his natural range of 
thought. What a pity it is that he, with his 
keen appreciation of the soldier, gave us so 
little of those soldiers who were his own con- 
tempol.aries-the finest, perhaps, that the 
world has ever seen. It is true that he wrote 
a life of the great Soldier Emperor, but that 
was the one piece of hackwork of his careel.. 
How could a Tory patriot, whose whole train- 
ing had been to look upon Napoleon as a 
malignant Demon, do justice to such a 
theme? But the Europe of those days was 
full of material which he of all men could 
have drawn with a sympathetic hand. What 
would we not give for a portrait of one of 
Murat's light-cavalrymen, or of a Grenadier 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 3 1 


of the Old Guard, drawn with the same bold 
strokes as the Rittmeister of Gustavus or the 
archers of the French I{ing's Guard in 
" Quentin Durward" ? 
In his visit to Paris Scott must have seen 
many of those iron men who during the pre- 
ceding twenty years had been the scourge and 
also the redemption of Europe. To us the 
soldiers who scowled at him from the side- 
walks in 1814 would have been as interesting 
and as much romantic figures of the past as 
the mail-clad knights or ruffiing cavaliers of 
his novels. A picture from the life of a 
Peninsular veteran, with his views upon the 
Duke, would be as striking as Dugald Dal- 
getty from the German wars. But then no 
man ever does realize the true interest of the 
age in which he happens to live. All sense 
of proportion is lost, and the little thing 
hard-by obscures the great thing at a dis- 
tance. It is easy in the dark to confuse the 
fire-fly and the star. Fancy, for example, the 
Old 1\iasters seeking their subjects in inn 
parlours, or St. Sebastiana, while Columbus 



32 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


was discovering America before their very 
faces. 
I have said that I think" Ivanhoe" the 
best of Scott's novels. I suppose most people 
would subscribe to that. But how about the 
second best? It speaks well for their general 
average that there is hardly one among them 
which might not find some admirers who 
would vote it to a place of honour. To the 
Scottish-born man those novels which deal 
with Scottish life and character have a 
quality of raciness which gives them a place 
apart. There is a rich humour of the soil in 
such books as "Old MOlotality," "The Anti- 
quary," and" Rob Roy," which puts them in 
a different class from the others. His old 
Scottish women are, next to his soldiers, the 
best series of types that he has drawn. At 
the same time it must be admitted that merit 
which is associated with dialect has such 
limitations that it can never take the same 
place as work which makes an equal appeal 
to all the world. On the whole, perhaps, 
"Quentin Durward," on account of its wider 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 33 


interests, its strong character-drawing, and 
the European importance of the events and 
people described, would have my vote for the 
second place. It is the father of all those 
sword-and-cape novels which have formed so 
numerous an addition to the light literature 
of the last century. The pictures of Charles 
the Bold and of the unspeakable Louis are 
extraordinarily vivid. I can see those t,vo 
deadly enemies watching the hounds chasing 
the herald, and clinging to each other in the 
convulsion of their cruel mirth, more clearly 
than most things which my eyes have actually 
rested upon. 
The portrait of Louis with his astuteness, 
his cruelty, his superstition and his cowardice 
is followed closely from Comines, and is the 
more effective when Bet up against his bluff 
and warlike rival. It is not often that 
historical characters work out in their actual 
physique exactly as one would picture them 
to be, but in the High Church of Innsbl"uck 
I have seen effigies of Louis and Charles 
which might have walked from the very pages 
D 



34 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


of Scott-Louis, thin, ascetic, varminty; and 
Charles with the head of a prize fighter. It 
is hard on us when a portrait upsets all our 
preconceived ideas, when, for example, we 
see in the National Portrait Gallery a man 
with a noble, olive-tinted, poetic face, and 
with a start read beneath it that it is tho 
,vicked Judge Jeffreys. Occasionally, how- 
ever, as at Innsbruck, we are absolutely 
satisfied. I have before me on the mantel- 
piece yonder a portrait of a painting which 
represents Queen Mary's Both\vell. Take it 
down and look at it. Mark the big head, fit 
to conceive large schemes; the strong animal 
face, made to captivate a sensitive, feminine 
woman; the brutally forceful features-the 
lllouth with a suggestion of wild boars' tusks 
behind it, the beard which could bristle with 
fury: the whole man and his life-history are 
revealed in that picture. I wonder if Scott 
had ever seen the original which hangs at the 
Hepburn family seat? 
Personally, I have always had a very high 
opinion of a novel which the critics have used 



THROUGH THE lVIAGIC DOOR 35 


somewhat harshly, and which came almost 
the last from his tired pen. I mean" Count 
Robert of Paris." I am convinced that if it 
had been the first, instead of the last, of the 
series it would have attracted as much atten- 
tion as "Waverley." I can understand the 
state of mind of the expert, who cried out in 
mingled admiration and despair: "I have 
studied the conditions of Byzantine Society 
all my life, and here comes a Scotch lawyer 
who makes the whole thing clear to me in a 
flash 1" Many men could dravv with more or 
less success Norman England, or mediæval 
Fl
ance, but to reconstruct a whole dead 
civilization in so plausible a ,yay, with such 
dignity and such minuteness of detail, is, I 
should think, a most ,vonderful tour de fOl'>ce. 
I-lis failing health shovved itself before the end 
of the novel, but had the latter half equalled 
the first, and contained scenes of such 
]lumour as Anna Comnena reading aloud her 
father's exploits, or of such majesty as the 
account of the muster of the Crusaders upon 
the shol
es of the Bosphorus, then the book 



36 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


could not have been gainsaid its rightful place 
in the very front rank of the novels. 
I would that he had carried on his narra- 
tive, and given us a glimpse of the actual 
progress of the First Crusade. What an 
incident! vVas ever anything in the world's 
history like it? It had what historical inci- 
dents seldom have, a definite beginning, 
middle and end, from the half-crazed preach- 
ing of Peter down to the Fall of Jerusalem. 
Those leaders! It would take a second 
Homer to do them justice. Godfrey the 
perfect soldier and leader, Bohemund the un- 
scrupulous and formidable, Tancred the ideal 
knight errant, Robert of Normandy the half- 
mad hero! Here is material" so rich that one 
feels one is not worthy to handle it. What 
richest imagination could ever evolve any- 
thing more marvellous and thrilling than tho 
actual historical facts? 
But what a glorious brotherhood the 
novels are! Think of the pure romance of 
"The Talisman"; the exquisite picture of 
Hebridean life in "The Pirate"; the 



THROUGH THE 1IAGIC DOOR 37 


splendid 1.eproduction of Elizabethan England 
in "Kenilworth"; the rich humour of the 
"Legend of Montrose"; above all, bear in 
mind that in all that splendid series, written 
in a coarse age, there is not one word to 
offend the most sensitive ear, and it is borne 
in upon one how great and noble a man 
was Walter Scott, and how high the service 
which he did for literature and for humanity. 
For that 1.eason his life is good reading, 
and there it is on the same shelf as the novels. 
Lockhart was, of course, his son-in-law and 
his admiring friend. The ideal biographer 
should be a perfectly impartial man, with a 
sympathetic mind, but a stern determination 
to tell the absolute truth. One would like 
the frail, human side of a man as well as the 
other. I cannot believe that anyone in the 
world was ever quite so good as the subject of 
most of our biographies. Surely these worthy 
people swore a little sometimes, or had a keen 
eye for a pretty face, or opened the second 
bottle when they would have done better to 
stop at the first, or did something to make us 



3 8 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


feel that they were men and brothers. They 
need not go the length of the lady who began 
a biography of her deceased husband ,vith the 
words-" D-- was a dirty man," but the 
books certainly would be more readable, and 
the subjects more lovable too, if we had 
greater light and shade in the picture. 
But I am sure that the more one knew of 
Scott the more one would have admired him. 
He lived in a drinking age, and in a drinking 
country, and I have not a doubt that be took 
an allowance of toddy occasionally of an 
evening which would have laid his feeble 
successors under the table. His last years, 
at least, poor fellow, were abstemious enough, 
'\vhen he sipped his barley-water, while the 
others passed the decanter. But what a 
lligh-souled chivalrous gentleman he was, 
with how fine a sense of honour, translating 
itself not into empty phrases, but into years 
of labour and denial! You remember how he 
became sleeping partner in a printing house, 
and so involved himself in its failure. There 
was a legal, but vel
Y little moral, claim 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 39 


against him, and no one could have blamed 
him had 11e cleared the account by a bank- 
ruptcy, which would have enabled him to 
become a rich man again within a few years. 
Yet he took the whole burden upon himself 
and bore it for the l
est of his life, spending 
his work, his time, and his health in the one 
long effort to save his honour from the shadow 
of a stain. It was nearly a hundred thousand 
pounds, I think, which 11e passed on to the 
creditors-a great record, a hundred thousand 
pounds, with his life thrown in. 
And what a power of work he had! It 
was superhuman. Only the man who has 
tried to write fiction himself knows what it 
means when it is recorded that Scott pro- 
duced two of his long novels in one single 
year. I remember reading in some book of 
reminiscences-on second thoughts it was in 
Lockhart himself-how the writer had lodged 
in some l
ooms in Castle Street, Edinburgh, 
and how he had seen all evening the silhou- 
ette of a man outlined on the blind of the 
opposite house. All evening the man wrote, 


, 



40 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


and the observer could see the shadow hand 
conveying the sheets of paper from the desk 
to the pile at the side. He went to a party 
and returned, but still the hand was moving 
the sheets. N ext morning he was told that 
the rooms opposite were occupied by Walter 
Scott. 
A curious glimpse into the psychology of 
the writer of fiction is shown by the fact that 
he wrote two of his books-good ones, too- 
at a time when his health was such that he 
could not afterwards remember one word of 
them, and listened to them when they were 
1gead to him as if he were hearing the work 
of another man. Apparently the simplest 
processes of the brain, such as ordinary 
memory, were in complete abeyance, and yet 
the very highest and most complex faculty- 
imagination in its supreme form-was abso. 
lutely unimpaired. It is an extraordinary 
fact, and one to be pondered over. It gives 
some support to the feeling which every 
writer of imaginative work must have, that 
his supreme work comes to him in some 



THROUGH THE IvIAGIC DOOR 41 


strange way from without, and that he is 
only the medium for placing it upon the 
paper. The creative thought - the germ 
thought from which a larger growth is to 
come, flies through his brain like a bullet. 
He is surprised at his own idea, with no 
conscious sense of having originated it. And 
here we have a man, with all other brain 
functions paralyzed, producing this magnificent 
work. Is it possible that we are indeed but 
conduit pipes from the infinite reservoir of 
the unknown? Certainly it is always our 
best work which leaves the least sense of 
personal effort. 
And to pursue this line of thought, is it 
possible that frail physical powers and an un- 
stable nervous system, by keeping a man's 
materialism at its lowest, render him a more 
fitting agent for these spiritual uses? It is 
an old tag that 


" Great Genius is to madness close allied, 
And thin partitions do those rooms divide. " 


But, apart from genius, even a moderate 
faculty for imaginative work seems to me to 



4 2 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


\veaken seriously the ties between the soul 
and the body. 
Look at the British poets of a century 
ago: Chatterton, Burns, Shelley, Keats, 
Byron. Burns was the oldest of that brilliant 
band, yet Burns was only thirty-eight when 
he passed away, "burned out," as his brother 
terribly expressed it. Shelley, it is true, died 
by accident, and Chatterton by poison, but 
suicide is in itself a sign of a morbid state. 
It is true that Rogers lived to be almost a 
centenarian, but he was banker first and 
poet afterwards. W ordswortb, Tennyson, 
and Browning have all raised the average 
age of the poets, but for some reason the 
novelists, especially of late years, have a 
deplorable record. They will end by being 
scheduled with the white-lead workers and 
other dangerous trades. Look at the l.eally 
shocking case of the young Americans, for 
example. What a band of promising young 
writers have in a few years been swept away! 
There was the author of that admirable book, 
"David Harum"; there was Frank Norris, 



THROUGH THE l\IAGIC DOOR 43 


a man ,vho had in him, I think, the seeds 
of greatness more than almost any living 
writer. His" Pit" seemed to me one of the 
finest American novels. He also died a 
premature death. Then there was Stephen 
Crane-a man who had also done most 
brilliant work, and there was Harold Frederic, 
another master-craftsman. Is there any pro- 
fession in the world which in proportion to 
its numbers could show such losses as that? 
In the meantime, out of our own men 
Robert Louis Stevenson is gone, and Henry 
Seton Merriman, and many another. 
Even those great men who are usually 
spoken of as if they had rounded off their 
career were really premature in their end. 
rrhackeray, for example, in spite of his snowy 
head, was only 52; Dickens attained the age 
of 58; on the whole, Sir Walter, with his 61 
years of life, although he never wrote a novel 
until be was over 40, had, fortunately for the 
world, a longer working career than most of 
his brethren. 
He employed his creative faculty for about 



44 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


twenty years, which is as much, I suppose, 
as Shakespeare did. The bard of Avon is 
another example of the limited tenure which 
Genius has of life, though I believe that he 
outlived the greater part of his own family, 
,vho were not a healthy stock. He died, I 
should judge, of some nel.VOUS disease; that 
is shown by the progressive degeneration of 
his signature. Probably it was locomotor 
ataxy, which is the special scourge of the 
imaginative man. Heine, Daudet, and how 
many more, were its victims. As to the 
tradition, first mentioned long after his death, 
that he died of a fever contracted from a 
drinking bout, it is absurd on the face of it, 
since no such fever is known to science. But 
a very moderate drinking bout would be 
extremely likely to bring a chronic nervous 
complaint to a disastrous end. 
One other remark upon Scott before I 
pass on from that line of green volumes which 
has made me so digressive and so garrulous. 
No account of his character is complete 
which does not deal with the strange, 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 45 


secretive vein which ran through his nature. 
Not only did he stretch the truth on many 
occasions in order to conceal the fact that 
he was the author of the famous novels, but 
even intimate friends who met him day by 
day were not aware that he was the man 
about whom the whole of Europe was talking. 
Even his wife was ignorant of his pecuniary 
liabilities until the crash of the Ballantyne 
firm told her for the first time that they were 
sharers in the ruin. A psychologist might 
trace this strange twist of his mind in the 
numerous elfish Fenella-like characters who 
flit about and keep their irritating secret 
through the long chapters of so many of his 
novels. 
It's a sad book, Lockhart's "Life." It 
leaves gloom in the mind. The sight of this 
weary giant, staggering along, burdened with 
debt, overladen with work, his wife dead, his 
nerves broken, and nothing intact but his 
honour, is one of the most moving in the 
history of literature. But they pass, these 
clouds, and all that is left is the memory of 


, 



46 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


the supremely noble man, who would not be 
bent, but faced Fate to the last, and died 
in his tracks without a whimper. He sampled 
every human emotion. Great was his joy 
and great his success, great was his downfall 
and bitter his grief. But of all the sons of 
men I don't think there are many greater 
than he WIlO lies under the great slab at 
Dryburgh. 



..." 


, 


, \'
 


\ 


.. 


'":"' 


. 


"' 


:, 
;S\ 


SIR. \VALTER SCOT'.r. 


From tlte l'orlra;t b!l Sir Edll'in Lwuhccr, fl..t., ill tlte Xatio/la{l'ortrait Gallery. 


. 



III 


VVE can pass the long green ranks of the 
Waverley Novels and Lockhart's "Life" which 
flanks them. Here is heavier metal in the 
four big grey volumes beyond. They are all 
old-fashioned large-print edition of Boswell's 
"Life of Johnson." I emphasize the large 
print, for that is the weak point of most of 
the cheap editions of English Classics which 
come now into the market. With subjects 
which are in the least archaic or abstruse 
you need good clear type to help you on your 
,yay. The other is good neither for your eyes 
nor for your temper. Bettel w pay a little more 
and have a book that is made for use. 
That book interests me-fascinates me- 
and yet I wish I could join heartily in that 
chorus of praise which the kind-hearted old 
bully has enjoyed. It is difficult to follow 


. 



4 8 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


his own advice and to "clear one's mind of 
cant" upon the subject, for when you have 
been accustomed to look at him through the 
sympathetio glasses of Macaulay or of Boswell, 
it is hard to take them off, to rub one's eyes, 
and to have a good honest stare on one's 
own account at the man's actual words, deeds, 
and limitations. If you try it you are left 
with the oddest mixture of impressions. How 
could one express it save that this is John 
Bull taken to literature-the exaggerated 
John Bull of the caricaturists-with every 
quality, good or evil, at its highest? Here 
are the rough crust over a kindly heart, the 
explosive temper, the arrogance, the insular 
narrowness, the want of sympathy and insight, 
the rudeness of peroeption, the positiveness, 
the overbearing bluster, the strong deep- 
seated religious principle, and every other 
characteristio of the rruder, rougher John 
Bull who was the gre
t grandfather of the 
present good-natured Johnnie. 
If Boswell had not lived I wonder bow 
much we should hear now of his huge friend? 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 49 


With Scotch persistence 110 bas succeeded in 
inoculating the whole world with his hero 
\vorship. It was most natural that he should 
himself admire him. The relations between 
the two men were delightful and reflect all 
credit upon each. But they are not a safe 
basis from which any third person could argue. 
vVhen they met, Boswell was in his twenty- 
third and Johnson in his fifty-fourth year. 
The one was a keen yc ung Scot with a mind 
which was reverent and impressionable. The 
other was a figure from a past generation 
with his fame already made. From the 
moment of meeting the one was bound to 
exercise an absolute ascendency over the 
other which made unbiassed criticism far 
Inore difficult than it ,would be between 
ordinary father and son. Up to the end this 
was the unbroken relation between them. 
It is all very well to pooh-pooh Boswell as 
J\Iacaulay has done, but it is not by chance 
that a man writes the best biography in the 
language. He had some great and rare lite- 
rary qualities. 011e was a clear and vivid style, 
E 


. 



50 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


more flexible and Saxon than that of his great 
model. Another was a remarkable discl.etion 
,vhich hardly once permitted a fault of taste 
in this whole enormous book where he must 
bave llad to pick his steps with pitfalls on 
every side of him. They say that he was a 
fool and a coxcomb in private life. . He is 
never so with a pen in his hand. Of all his 
numerous al"guments ,vith Johnson, where he 
ventured some little squeak of remonstrance, 
before the roaring" No, sir! " came to silence 
him, there are few in which his views were 
not, as experience proved, the wiser. On the 
question of slavery he was in the wrong. 
nut I could quote from memory at least a 
dozen cases, including such vital subjects as 
the American Revolution, the Hanoverian 
Dynasty, Religious Toleration, and so on, 
where Boswell's views were those which 
survived. 
But where he excels as a biographer is in 
telling you just those little things that you 
want to know. How often you read the life 
of a man and are left without the remotest 



- 
or- 


...... 



 t 
\ 
hT .J I 

 } 
A. 
'" 
\ 


... 


. 


'<'t",f'- 


"THE ROARING '1\0, SIR!' CA:\IE TO SILE
CE HDI." 




THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 51 


idea of his personality. It is not so here. 
The man lives again. There is a short 
description of Johnson's person-it is not 
in the Life, but in the Tour to the Hebrides, 
the very next book upon the shelf, which is 
typical of his vivid portrajture. May I take 
it down, and read you a paragraph of it?- 
" His person was large, l'obust, I may say 
approaching to the gigantic, and grown un- 
wieldy from corpulency. His countenance 
was naturally of the cast of an ancient statue, 
but somewhat disfigured by the scars of King's 
evil. He was now in his sixty-fourth year 
and was become a little dull of hearing. His 
sight had always been somewhat weak, yet so 
n1uch does mind govern and even supply the 
deficiencies of organs that his perceptions 
were uncommonly quick and accurate. His 
head, and sometimes also his body, shook 
with a kind of motion like the effect of palsy. 
He appeared to be frequently disturbed by 
cramps or convulsive contractions of tho 
nature of that distemper called St. Vitus' 
dance. He wore a full suit of plain brown 



52 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


clothes, with twisted hair buttons of the same 
colour, a large bushy greyish wig, a plain 
shirt, black worsted stockings and silver 
buckles. Upon this tour when journeying 
he wore boots and a very wide brown cloth 
great-coat with pockets which might almost 
bave held the two volumes of his folio 
dictionary, and he carried in his hand a large 
English oak stick." You must admit that if 
one cannot reconstruct the great Samuel after 
that it is not Mr. Boswell's fault-and it is 
but one of a dozen equally vivid glimpses 
which he gives us of his hero. It is just these 
pen-pictures of his of the big, uncouth man, 
with his grunts and his groans, his Gargantuan 
appetite, his twenty cups of tea, and his tricks 
with the orange-peel and the lamp-posts, which 
fascinate the reader, and have given J obnson 
a far broader literary vogue than his writings 
could have done. 
For, after all, which of those writings 
can be said to have any life to-day? Not 
" Rasselas," surely - that stilted romance. 
U The Lives of the Poets" are but a suc- 



THROUGH THE 1\IAGIC DOOR 53 


cession of prefaces, and the "Ramblers" of 
ephemeral essays. There is the monstrous 
drudgery of the Dictionary, a huge piece of 
spadework, a monument to industry, but 
inconceivable to genius. "London" has a 
few vigorous lines, and the "Journey to the 
Hebrides" some spirited pages. This, with a 
number of political and other pamphlets, was 
the main output of his lifetime. Surely it 
must be admitted that it is not enough to 
justify his predominant place in English 
literature, and that we must turn to his humble, 
much-ridiculed biographer for the real expla- 
nation. 
And then there was his talk. What was 
it which gave it such distinction? His clear- 
cut positiveness upon every subject. But this 
is a sign of a narrow finality-impossible to 
the man of sympathy and of imagination, who 
sees the other side of every question and 
understands what a little island the greatest 
human knowledge must be in the ocean of 
infinite possibilities which surround us. Look 
at the results. Did ever any single man, the 


, 



S4 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


very dullest of the race, stand convicted of 
so many incredible blunders? It recalls the 
remark of Bagehot, that if at any time the 
views of the most learned could be stamped 
npon the whole human race the result would 
be to propagate the most absurd errors. He 
was asked what became of swallows in the 
winter. Rolling and wheezing, the oracle 
answered: "Swallows," said he, "certainly 
sleep all the winter. A number of them COll- 
globulate together by flying round and round, 
and then all in a heap throw themselves under 
water and lie in the bed of a rivel.." Bosvv"ell 
gravely dockets the information. However, if 
I remember right, even so sound a naturalist 
as White of Selborne had his doubts about 
the swallows. More wonderful are Johnson's 
misjudgments of his fellow-authors. There, 
if anywhere, one would have expected to find 
a sense of proportion. Yet his conclusions 
would seem monstrous to a modern taste. 
" Shakespeare," he said, "never wrote six 
consecutive good lines." He would only 
admit two good verses in Gray's exquisite 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 55 


"Elegy written in a Country Churchyard," 
\vhere it would take a very acid critic to find 
two bad ones. "Tristram Shandy" would not 
live. "Hamlet" was gabble. Swift's" Gulli- 
ver's Travels" was poor stuff, and he never 
wrote anything good except "A Tale of a 
Tub." Voltaire was illiterate. Rousseau was 
a scoundrel. Deists, like Hume, Priestley, or 
Gibbon, could not be honest men. 
And his political opinions I They sound 
no\v like a caricature. I suppose even in 
those days they were reactionary. "A poor 
man has no honour." "Charles the Second 
was a good l{ing." "Governments should 
turn out of the Civil Service all who were on 
the other side." "Judges in India should be 
encouraged to trade." "No country is the 
richer on account of trade." (I wonder if 
Adaln Smith ,vas in the company ,vhen this 
proposition was laid down 1) "A landed 
proprietor should turn out those tenants who 
did not vote as he wished." "It is not good 
for a labourer to have his wages raised. " 
"When the balance of trade is against a 



56 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


country, the margin 1nust be paid in current 
coin." Those ,vere a few of his con- 
victions. 
And then his prejudices! Most of us 
have some unreasoning aversion. In our 
Illore generous moments we are not proud of 
it. But consider those of Johnson! When 
they were all eliminated there was not so 
very much left. He hated Whigs. He dis- 
liked Scotsn1en. He detested Nonconformists 
(a young lady "\vho joined them was" an odious 
wench "). He loathed Alllericans. So he 

Talked his narrow line, belching fire and fury 
at everything to the right or the left of it. 
Macaulay's posthumous admiration is all very 
well, but had they met in life Macaulay would 
have contrived to unite under one hat nearly 
everything that Johnson abominated. 
It cannot be said that these prejudices 
were founded on any strong principle, or that 
they could not be altered where his own 
personal interests demanded it. This is one 
of the weak points of his record. In his 
dictionary he abused pensions and pensioners 



THROUGH THE l\IAGIC DOOR 57 


as a means by which the State imposed 
slavery upon hirelings. 'Vhell he wrote the 
unfortunate definition a pension must have 
seemed a most improbable contingency, but 
when Geol-ge III., either through policy or 
charity, offered him one a little later, he made 
no hesitation in accepting it. One woulù 
have liked to feel that the violent expression 
of his convictions }-epresented a real intensity 
of feeling, but the facts in this instance seem 
against it. 
He was a great talker-but his talk was 
more properly a monologue. It was a dis- 
cursive essay, with perhaps a few marginal 
notes from his subdued audience. How could 
one talk on equal terms with a man who 
could not brook contradiction or even argu- 
ment upon the most vital questions in 
life ? Would Goldsmith defend Ilis literary 
views, or Burke his Wbiggism, or Gibbon 
his Deism? There was no common ground 
of philosophic toleration on which one could 
stand. If he could not argue he would 
be rude, or, as Goldsmith put it: "If his 



58 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


pistol missed fire, he would knock you down 
with the butt end." In the face of that 
"l'hinoceros laugh" there was an end of 
gentle argulllent. Napoleon said that all the 
other kings would say" Ouf!" when they 
heard he ,vas dead, and so I cannot help 
thinking that the older men of Johnson's 
circle must have given a sigh of relief when 
at last they could speak freely on that which 
was near their hearts, without the danger of 
a scene where "Why, no, sir!" was very 
likely to ripen into "Let us have no more 
on't ! " Certainly one would like to get 
behind Boswell's account, and to hear a chat 
between such men as Burke and Reynolds, 
as to the difference in the freedom and 
atmosphere of the Club on an evening when 
the formidable Doctor was not there, as 
compared to one when he was. 
No smallest estimate of his character is 
fair which does not make due allowance for 
the terrible experiences of his youth and early 
middle age. His spirit ,vas as scarred as his 
face. He was fifty-three when the pension 



THROUGH THE 1\1AGIC DOOR 59 


was given him, and up to then his existence 
had been spent in one constant struggle for 
the first necessities of life, for the daily meal 
and the nightly beù. He had seen his 
comrades of letters die of actual privation. 
From childhood he had known no happiness. 
The ]lalf blind gawky youth, with dÏ1
ty linen 
and twitching limbs, had always, whether in 
the streets of Lichfield, the quadrangle of 
Pembroke, or the coffee-houses of London, 
been an object of mingled pity and amuse- 
ment. With a proud and sensitive soul, every 
day of his life must have brought some bitter 
humiliation. Such an experience must either 
break a man's spirit or embitter it, and here, 
no doubt, was the secret of that l.oughness, 
that carelessness for the sensibilities of others, 
which caused Boswell's father to christen him 
"Ursa Major." If his nature was in any way 
"rarped, it must be admitted that terlific 
forces had gone to the rending of it. His 
good was innate, his evil the result of a 
dreadful experience. 
And he had some great qualities. Memory 



60 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


was the chief of them. He had read omni- 
vorously, and all that he had read he 
remembered, not merely in the vague, 
general ,vay in which we remember what 
we read, but with every particular of place 
and date. If it were poetry, he could quote 
it by the page, Latin or English. Such a 
lllemory has its enormous advantage, but it 
carries with it its corresponding defect. Witll 
the mind so cramllled with other people's 
goods, ho,v can you have room for any fresh 
manufactures of your o"Tn ? A great memory 
is, I think, often fatal to originality, in spite 
of Scott and some other exceptions. The 
slate must be clear before you put your o,yn 
writing upon it. When did Johnson evel' 
discover an original thought, when did he 
ever I'each forward into the future, or throw 
any fresh light upon those enigmas with 
which mankind is faced? Overloaded with 
the past, he had space for nothing else. 
Modern developments of every sort cast no 
first herald rays upon bis mind. He journeyed 
in France a few years before the greatest 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 61 


cataclysm that the world has ever known, 
and his mind, arrested by much that was 
trivial, never once responded to the storm- 
signals which must surely have been visible 
around him. We l
ead that an amiable 
:Thíonsieur Sanstel
re showed him over his 
brewery and supplied him with statistics as 
to his output of beer. It was the same foul- 
lllouthed Sansterre who struck up the drums 
to drown Louis' voice at the scaffold. The 
association shows how near the unconscious 
sage was to the edge of tbat precipice and how 
little his learning availed him in discerning it. 
He would have been a great lawyer or 
divine. Nothing, one would think, could 
have kept him from Canterbury or from the 
Woolsack. In either case his memory, his 
learning, his dignity, and his inherent sense 
of piety and justice, would have sent him 
straight to the top. His brain, working within 
its own limitations, was remarkable. There is 
no more wonderful proof of this than his 
opinions on questions of Scotch law, as given 
to Boswell and as used by the latter before 



62 THROUGH THE IVIAGIC DOOR 


the Scotch judges. That an outsider with no 
special training should at short notice write 
such weighty opinions, crammed ,vith argu- 
ment and reason, is, I think, as remarkable a 
tour de force as literature can show. 
Above all, he really was a very kind- 
hearted man, and that must count for much. 
His was a large charity, and it came from a 
small purse. The rooms of his house became 
a sort of harbour of refuge in which several 
strange battered hulks found their last moor- 
ings. There were the blind 1\fr. Levett, and 
the acidulous 1\frs. 'Villiams, and the colourless 
1\1rs. De Moulins, all old and ailing-a trying 
group amid which to spend one's days. His 
guinea was always ready for the poor acquaint- 
ance, and no poet was so humble that he 
might not preface his book with a dedication 
,vhose ponderous and sonorous sentences bore 
the hall-ma1
k of their maker. It is tho 
rough, kindly man, the man who bore the 
poor street-walker llome upon his shoulders, 
who makes one forget, 01. at least forgive, the 
dogmatic pedantic Doctor of the Club. 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 63 


There is al,vays to me something of interest 
in the view which a great man takes of old ago 
and death. It is the practical test of how far 
the philosophy of his life has been a sound 
one. Hume saw death afar, and met it with 
unostentatious calm. Johnson's mind flinched 
from that dread opponent. His letters and his 
talk during his latter years are one long cry 
of fear. It was not cowardice, for physically 
he was one of the most stout-heal
ted men that 
ever lived. There were no limits to his 
courage. It was spiritual diffidence, coupled 
with an actual belief in the possibilities of the 
. other world, which a more humane and liberal 
theology has done something to soften. How 
strange to see him cling so desperately to that 
crazy body, with its gout, its asthma, its St. 
Vitus' dance, and its six gallons of dropsy! 
What could be the attraction of an existence 
where eight hours of every day were spent 
groaning in a chail., and sixteen wheezing in 
a bed? "I would give one of these legs," 
said he, "for another year of life." N one the 
less, when the hour did at last strike, no man 



64 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


could have borne himself with more simple 
dignity and courage. Say what you will of 
him, and resent him ho,v you may, you can 
never open those four grey volumes without 
getting some mental stimulus, some desire for 
wider reading, some insight into human learn- 
ing or character, which should leave you a 
better and a wiser man. 



" 


SAl\IUEL JOHNSON, LL.D. 

ifter the raifltin.fJ by Sir Joshua n('!/nold
, r.R..I. 


\, 


\ 



\ 


IV 


NEXT to my Johnsoniana are my Gibbons- 
two editions, if you please, for my olel com- 
plete one being somewhat crabbed in tho 
print I could not resist getting a set of 
Bury's new six-volume presentment of tho 
History. In reading that book you don't 
want to be handicapped in any way. You 
want fair type, clear paper, and a light 
volume. You are not to read it lightly, but 
\vith some earnestness of purpose and keen- 
ness for knowledge, with a classical atlas at 
your elbow and a note-book hard by, taking 
easy stages and harking back every now and 
then to keep your grip of the past and to 
link it up ,vith what follo\ys. There arc 110 
thrills in it. You ,\von't be kept out of your 
bed at night, nor will you forget your ap- 
pointments during the day, but you will feel 
F 



66 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


a certain sedate pleasure in the doing of it, 
and \vhen it is done you ,viII have gained 
something which you can never lose- 
something solid, something definite, some- 
thing that ,viII make you broader and deeper 
than before. 
Were I condemned to spend a year upon 
a desert island and allowed only one book 
for my companion, it is certainly that which 
I should choose. For consider how enOl
mous 
is its scope, and what food for thought is 
contained within those volumes. It covers 
a thousand years of the world's history, it 
is full and good and accurate, its standpoint 
is broadly philosophic, its style dignified. 
With our more elastic methods we may con- 
sider bis manner pompous, but he lived in 
an age when Johnson's turgid periods had 
corrupted our literature. For my own part 
I do not dislike Gibbon's pomposity. A para- 
graph should be measured and sonorous if it 
ventures to describe the advance of a Roman 
legion, or the debate of a Greek Senate. You 
are wafted upwards, with this lucid and just 



THROUGH THE IVIAGIC DOOR 67 


spirit by your side upholding and instructing 
you. Beneath you are warring nations, the 
clash of races, the rise and fall of dynasties, 
the conflict of creeds. Serene you float 
above them all, and ever as the panorama 
flows past, the weighty measured unemotional 
voice whispers the true meaning of the scene 
into your ear. 
It is a most mighty story that is told. 
You begin with a description of the state 
of the Roman Empire when the early Cæsars 
,vere on the throne, and \vhen it was undis- 
puted nlistress of the world. You pass down 
the line of the Emperors with their strange 
alternations of greatness and profligacy, de- 
scending occasionally to criminal lunacy. 
Whell the Empire went rotten it began at 
the top, and it took centuries to corrupt the 
man behind the spear. Neither did a religion 
of peace affect him much, for, in spite of the 
adoption of Christianity, Roman history was 
still written in blood. The new creed had 
only added a fresh cause of quarrel and 
violence to the many which already existed, 



68 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


and the wars of angry nations were mild 
compared to those of excited sectaries. 
Then came the mighty rushing wind from 
without, blowing from the waste places of 
the world, destroying, confounding, whirling 
madly through the old order, leaving broken 
chaos behind it, but finally cleansing anc1 
purifying that which was stale and corrupt. 
A storm-centre somewhere in the north of 
China did suddenly what it may very well do 
again. The human volcano blew its top off, 
and Europe was covered by the destructive 
déb'J'"'is. The absurd point is that it was not 
the conquerors who overran the Roman 
Empire, but it was the terrified fugitives 
who, like a drove of stampeded cattle, 
blundered over everything which barred their 
\vay. It was a wild, dramatic time-tho 
time of the formation of the modern races 
of Europe. The nations came whirling in 
out of the north and east like dust-storms, 
and amid the seeming chaos each ,vas 
blended with its neighbour so as to toughen 
the fibre of the whole. The fickle Gaul got 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 69 


his steadying from the Franks, the steady 
Saxon got his touch of refinement from the 
Norman, the Italian got a fresh lease of life 
from the Lombard and the Ostrogoth, the 
corrupt Greek made way for the manly and 
earnest 1fahommedan. Everywhere one 
seems to see a great hand blending the seeds. 
And so one can now, save only that emigra- 
tion has taken the place of war. It does not, 
for example, take much prophetic power to 
say that something very great is being built 
up on the other side of the Atlantic. When 
on an Anglo-Celtic basis you see the Italian, 
the Hun, and the Scandinavian being added, 
you feel that there is no human quality 
,vhich may not be thereby evolved. 
But to revert to Gibbon: the next stage 
is the flight of Empire from Rome to Byzan- 
tium, even as the Anglo-Celtic power 11light 
find its centre some day not in London but 
in Chicago or Toronto. There is the whole 
strange story of the tidal wave of Mahom- 
medanism from the south, submerging all 
North Africa, spreading right and left to 



70 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


India on the one side and to Spain on the 
other, finally washing 19i9ht over the walls of 
Byzantium until it, the bulwark of Chris- 
tianity, became what it is now, the advanced 
European fortress of the Moslem. Such is the 
tremendous narrative covering half the world's 
known history, which can all be acquired and 
made part of yourself by the aid of that 
humble atlas, pencil, and note-book already 
recommended. 
When all is so interesting it is hard to 
pick examples, but to me there has always 
seemed to be something peculiarly impressive 
in the first entrance of a new race on to the 
stage of history. It has something of tho 
glamour which hangs round the early youth 
of a great man. You remember how the 
Russians made their début-came down the 
great rivers and appeared at the Bosphorus 
in two hundred canoes, from which they 
endeavoured to board the Imperial galleys. 
Singular that a thousand years have passed 
and that the ambition of the Russians is still 
to carry out the task at which their skin-clad 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 71 


ancestors failed. Or the rrurks again; you 
may recall tho characteristic ferocity with 
which they opened their career. A handful 
of them were on some mission to the Emperor. 
The town was besieged from the landward 
side by the barbarians, and the Asiatics 
obtained leave to take part in a skirmish. 
The first Turk galloped out, shot a barbarian 
,vith his arrow, and then, lying down beside 
l1im, proceeded to suck his blood, whieh so 
horrified the man's comrades that they could 
110t be brought to face suell uncanny adver- 
saries. So, from opposite sides, those two 
great races arrived at the city which was to 
be the stronghold of the one and the ambition 
of the other for so many centuries. 
And then, even more interesting than the 
races which arrive are those that disappear. 
There is something there which appeals most 
powerfully to the imagination. Take, for 
example, the fate of those Vandals who con- 
quered the north of Africa. They were a Ger- 
man tribe, blue-eyed and flaxen-haired, from 
some,vhere in the Elba country. Suddenly 



72 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


they, too, were seized with the strange 
wandering madness which was epidemic at 
the time. Away they went on the line of 
least resistance, which is always from north 
to south and from east to west. South-west 
was the course of the Vandals-a course 
which must have been continued through 
pure love of adventure, since in the thousands 
of miles which they traversed there were 
many fair 1.esting-places, if that were only 
their quest. 
They crossed the south of France, con- 
quered Spain, and, finally, the more adven- 
turous passed over into Africa, where they 
occupied the old Roman province. For two 
or three generations they held it, much as tho 
English hold India, and their numbers were 
at the least some hundreds of thousands. 
Pl.esently the Roman Empire gave one of 
those flickers which showed that there ,vas 
still some fire among the ashes. Belisarius 
landed in Africa and reconquered the pro- 
vince. The Vandals were cut off from the 
sea and fled inland. Whither did they carry 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 73 


those blue eyes and that flaxen hair? 'tV ere 
they exterminated by the negroes, or did 
they amalgamate with them? Travellers 
have brought back stories from the Moun.. 
tains of the 1\Ioon of a Negroid race with 
light eyes and hair. Is it possible that 
here we have some trace of the' vanished 
Germans? 
It recalls the parallel case of the lost 
settlements in Greenland. That also has 
always seemed to me to be one of the most 
l.omantic questions in history-the more so, 
perhaps, as I have strained my eyes to see 
across the ice..floes the Greenland coast at 
the point (or near it) where the old "Eyr- 
byggia" must have stood. That was the 
Scandinavian city, founded by colonists from 
Iceland, which grew to be a considerable 
place, so much so that they sent to Denmark 
for a bishop. That would be in the fourteenth 
century. The bishop, coming out to his see, 
found that he was unable to reach it on 
account of a climatic change which had 
brought down the ice and filled the strait 



74 THROUGI-I THE MAGIC DOOR 


betweeu Iceland and Greenland. Fronl that 
day to this no one has been able to say what 
has become of these aId Scandinavians, who 
,vere at the time, be it remembered, the most 
civilized and advanced 1.ace in Europe. They 
lnay have been overwhelmed by the Esqui- 
maux, the despised Skroeling-or they may 
have amalgamated with them-or conceivably 
they might have held their own. Very little 
is known yet of that portion of the coast. It 
would be strange if some N ansen or Peary 
were to stumble upon the remains of the old 
colony, and find possibly in that antiseptic 
atmosphere a complete mummy of some by- 
gone civilization. 
But once more to return to Gibbon. "\Vhat 
a mind it must have been which first planned, 
and then, ,vith the incessant labour of twenty 
years, carried out that enormous work! There 
was no classical author so little known, no 
Byzantine historian so diffuse, no monkish 
chronicle so crabbed, that they were not 
assimilated and worked into their appropriate 
place in the huge framework. Great appli- 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 7S 


cation, great perseverance, great attention to 
detail was needed in all this, but the coral 
polyp has all those qualities, and somehow in 
the heart of his own creation the individuality 
of the man himself becomes as insignificant 
and as much overlooked as that of the littlo 
creature that builds the reef. A thousand 
know Gibbon's ,york for one who cares any- 
thing for Gib bon. 
And on the whole this is justified by the 
facts. Some men are greater than their 
work. Their work only represents one facet 
of their character, and there may be a dozen 
others, all remarkable, and uniting to mako 
one complex and unique creature. It was 
not so with Gibbon. He was a cold-blooded 
man, with a brain which seemed to have 
grown at the expense of his heart. I cannot 
1.ecall in his life one generous impulse, one 
ardent enthusiasm, save for the Classics. 
His excellent judgment was never clouded by 
the haze of human emotion-or, at least, it 
was such an emotion as was well under the 
control of his will. Could anything bo more 


, 



76 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


laudable-or less lovable? He abandons his 
girl at the order of his father, and sums it up 
that he " sighs as a lover but obeys as a son." 
The father dies, and he records the fact with 
the remark that "the tears of a son alOO 
seldom lasting." The terrible spectacle of 
the French Revolution excited in his mind 
only a feeling of self-pity because his l"etreat 
in Switzerland was invaded by the unhappy 
refugees, just as a grumpy country gentleman 
in England might complain that he was 
annoyed by the trippers. There is a touch of 
dislike in all the allusions which Boswell 
makes to Gibbon-often without even men- 
tioning his name-and one cannot read the 
great historian's life without understanding 
why. 
I should think that few men have been 
born with the material for self-sufficient con- 
tentment more completely within himself 
than Edward Gibbon. He had every gift 
which a great scholar should have, an in- 
satiable thirst for learning in every form, 
immense industry, a retentive memory, and 


. 


. 



THROUGH THE l\IAGIC DOOR 77 


that broadly philosophic temperament which 
enables a man to rise above the partisan and 
to become the impartial critic of human 
affairs. It is true that at the time he was 
looked upon as bitterly prejudiced in the 
matter of religious thought, but his views 
are familiar to modern philosophy, and would 
shock no susceptibilities in these more liberal 
(and more virtuous) days. Turn him up in 
that Encyclopedia, and see what the latest 
word is upon his contentions. "Upon the 
famous fifteenth and sixteenth chapters it is 
not necessary to dwell," says the biographer, 
"because at this time of day no Christian 
apologist dreams of denying the substantial 
truth of any of the more important allega- 
tions of Gibbon. Christians may complain 
of tIle suppression of some circumstances 
\vbich might influence the general result, 
and they must remonstrate against the unfair 
construction of their case. But they no 
longer refuse to hear any reasonable evidence 
tending to show that persecution was less 
severe than had been once believed, and they 


, 



7 8 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


have slowly learned that they can afford to 
concede the validity of all the secondary 
causes assigned by Gibbon and even of others 
still more discreditable. The fact is, as the 
historian has again and again admitted, that 
his account of the secondary causes wllicll 
contributed to the progress and establisll- 
ment of Christianity leaves the question as to 
the natural or supernatural origin of Chris- 
tianity practically untouched." This is all 
very well, but in that case how about the 
century of abuse which has been showered 
upon the historian? Some posthumous apology 
would seem to be called for. 
Physically, Gibbon was as small as Johnson 
was large, but there was a curious affinity in 
their bodily ailments. Johnson, as a youth, 
was ulcerated and tortured by the king's evil, 
in spite of the Royal touch. Gibbon gives 
us a concise but lurid account of his own 
boyhood. 


" I was successively afflicted by lethargies 
and fevel.s, by opposite tendencies to a 



.-., 


... 


-, 
\. 


EDWARD GIBBO
. 
From tlte Pail/till.? f,!/ lIe III."!! Waltoll. 




THROUGH THE l\1:AGIC DOOR 79 


consumptive and dropsical habit, by a con- 
traction of my nerves, a fistula in my eye, 
and the bite of a dog, most vehemently 
suspected of madness. Every practitioner 
,vas called to my aid, the fees of the doctors 
,vere swelled by the bills of the apothecaries 
and sUl.geons. There was a time when I 
s\vallowed more physic than food, and my 
body is still marked by the indelible scars of 
lancets, issues, and caustics." 


Such is his melancholy report. The fact 
is that the England of that day seems to have 
been very full of that hereditary form of 
chronic ill-health which we call by the general 
name of struma. How far the hard-drinking 
habits in vogue for a century or so before had 
any tIring to do with it I cannot say, nor 
can I trace a connection between struma and 
learning; but one has only to compare this 
account of Gibbon with Johnson's nervous 
twitches, his scarred face and his St. Vitus' 
dance, to realize that these, the two most 
solid English writers of their generation, 


. 



80 THROUGH 1'I-IE MAGIC DOOR 


were each heir to the same gruesome in.. 
heritance. 
I wonder if there is any picture extant 
of Gibbon in the character of subaltern in 
the South Hampshire Militia? With his 
small frame, his huge head, his round, chubby 
face, and the pretentious uniform, he must 
have looked a most extraordinary figure. 
N ever was there so rOllnd a peg in a square 
hole! His father, a man of a very different 
type, held a commission, and this led to 
poor Gibbon becoming a soldier in spite of 
himself. War had broken out, the regiment 
was mustered, and the unfortunate student, 
to his own utter dismay, was kept under 
arms until the conclusion of hostilities. For 
three years he was divorced from his books, 
and loudly and bitterly did he resent it. The 
South Hampshire l\filitia never saw the 
enemy, which is perhaps as well for them. 
Even Gibbon himself pokes fun at them; but 
after three years undel- canvas it is probable 
that his men had more cause to smile at 
their book..worrn captain than he at his mon. 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 81 


His hand closed much more readily on a 
pen-handle than on a sword-hilt. In his 
lament, one of the items is that his colonel's 
example encouraged the daily practice of hard, 
and even excessive drinking, which gave him 
the gout. "The loss of so Inany busy and 
idle hours were not compensated for by any 
elegant pleasure," says he; "and my temper 
was insensibly soured by the society of rustic 
officers, who were alike deficient in the know- 
ledge of scholars and the manners of gentle- 
men." The picture of Gibbon flushed with 
,vine at the mess-table, with these hard.. 
drinking squires around him, must certainly 
have been a curious one. He admits, 110W- 
ever, that he found consolations as well as 
hardships in his spell of soldiering. It made 
him an Englishman once more, it improved his 
health, it changed the current of his thoughts. 
It was even useful to him as an historian. 
In a celebrated and characteristic sentence, 
he says, "The discipline and evolutions of a 
modern battalion gave me a clearer notion of 
tpe Phalanx and the Legions, and the captain 
G 



82 THROUGH THE rvIAGIC DOOR 


of the Hampshire Grenadiers has not been use- 
less to the historian of the Roman Empire." 
If we don't know all about Gibbon it is not 
his fault, for he wrote no fewer than six 
accounts of his O\Vll career, each differing 
from the other, and all equally bad. A man 
must have more heart and soul than Gibbon 
to write a good autobiography. It is the 
most difficult of all human compositions, call- 
ing for a mixture of tact, discretion, and 
frankness which make an almost impossible 
blend. Gibbon, in spite of bis foreign educa- 
tion, was a very typical Englishman in many 
\vays, with the reticence, self-respect, and 
self-consciousness of the race. No British 
autobiography has ever been frank, and con- 
sequently no British autobiography has ever 
been good. Trollope's, perhaps, is as good as 
any that I know, but of all forms of literature 
it is the one least adapted to the national 
genius. Yon could not imagine a Bl'litish 
Rousseau, still less a British Benvenuto Cel- 
lini. In one way it is to the credit of the 
l'lace that it should be so. If we do as much 



.. 


SA:\Il:EL PEPYS. 
From the Portrait by .
;r })der Lei!! at J/atjdalene Coll,!!l', Call1bri'{qe. 


, 



THROUGH THE 1iAGIC DOOR 83 


ovil as our neighbours we at least have graco 
enough to be ashamed of it and to suppress 
its publication. 
There on the left of Gibbon is my fine 
edition (Lord Braybrooke's) of Pepys' Diary. 
That is, in truth, the greatest autobio- 
graphy in our language, and yet it was not 
deliberately written as such. When Mr. 
Pepys jotted down from day to day every 
quaint or mean thought which came into his 
head he would have been very much surprised 
11ad anyone told him that he was doing a 
work quite unique in our literature. Yet his 
involuntary autobiography, compiled for Some 
obscure reason or for private reference, but 
certainly never Ineant for publication, is as 
much the first in that line of literature as 
Boswell's book among biographies or Gibbon's 
among histories. 
As a race we are too afraid of giving our- 
selves away ever to produce a good auto- 
biography. We resent the charge of national 
hypocrisy, and yet of all nations we are 
the least frank as to our own emotions- 



84 THROU'GH THE MAGIC DOOR 


especially on certain sides of them. Those 
affairs of the heart, for example, which are 
such an index to a man's character, and so pro- 
foundly modify his life-what space do they 
fill in any man's autobiography? Perhaps in 
Gibbon's case the omission matters little, for, 
save in the instance of his well-controlled 
passion for the future Madame Neckar, his 
heart was never an organ which gave him 
much trouble. The fact is that when the 
British author tells his o\vn story he tries 
to make himself respectable, and the more 
1 g espectable a man is the less interesting does 
he become. Rousseau may prove himself a 
maudlin degenerate. Cellini may stand self- 
convicted as an amorous ruffian. If they are 
not respectable they are thoroughly human 
and interesting all the same. 
The wonderful thing about Mr. Pepys is 
that a man should succeed in making himself 
seem so insignificant when really he must 
have been a man of considerable character 
and attainments. Who would guess it who 
read all these trivial comments, these cata- 



THROUGH THE l\1:AGIC DOOR 85 


Iogues of what he had for dinner, these inane 
domestic confidences-all the more interest- 
ing for tbeir inanity! The effect left upon 
the mind is of some grotesque character in 
a play, fussy, self-conscious, blustering with 
,vomen, timid with men, dress-proud, purse- 
proud, trimming in politics and in religion, a 
garrulous gossip immersed always in trifles. 
And yet, though this was the day-by-day 
man, the year-by-year man was a very dif... 
ferent person, a devoted civil servant, an 
eloquent orator, an excellent writer, a capable 
lllusician, and a ripe scholar who accumulated 
3000 volumes-a large private library in 
those days-and had the public spirit to leave 
them all to his University. You can fOl'give 
old Pepys a good deal of his philandering 
,vhen you remember that he ,vas the only 
official of the Navy Office who stuck to his 
post during the worst days of the Plague. 
He may have been-indeed, he assuredly was 
-a coward, but the coward who has sense of 
duty enough to overcome his co,vardice is the 
most truly brave of mankind. 



86 1'f-IROUGH 'THE MAGIC DOOR 


But the one amazing thing which ,viII 
never be explained about Pepys is ,vhat on 
earth induced him to go to the incredible 
labour of ,vriting down in shorthand cipher 
not only all the trivialities of his life, but even 
his own very gross delinquencies ,vhich any 
other man ,vonld have been only too glad to 
forget. The Diary ,vas kept for about ten 
years, and ,vas abandoned because the strain 
upon his eyes of the crabbed shorthand ,vas 
helping to destroy his sight. I suppose that 
he became so familiar with it that he wrote it 
and read it as easily as he did ol'dinary script. 
But even so, it was a huge labour to compile 
these books of strange manuscript. Was it 
an effort to leave some memorial of his OWll 
existence to single him out from all the 
countless sons of men? In such a case he 
would assuredly have left directions in some- 
body's care ,vith a l'efel'ence to it in the deed 
by which he bequeathed his libral'y to Cam- 
bridge. In that way he could l1ave ensured 
having his Diary read at any date he chose to 
name after his death. But no allusion to it 



\ 


, 


:i> 


-, 


." , .... 
'...J 
J 
,..; 
oJ 


....... 


.. 


...; 


.. . 


...... 


\. 


........ 


" -.' 



u=X't.l..l. 
f\..'" ,. 
\ '? <iIø 


"PEPYS, A RIPE SCHOLAR WHO ACCUMULATED 3000 VOLUMES." 


.. 



THROUGI-I rfHE MAGIC DOOR 87 


was left, and if it had not been for the in- 
genuity and perseverance of a single scholar 
the dusty volumes ,vould still lie unread in 
some top shelf of the Pepysian Library. Pub- 
licity, then, was not his object. What could 
it have been? The only alternative is refer- 
ence and self-information. You will observe 
in his character a curious vein of method and 
order, by ,vhich he loved to be for ever esti- 
mating his exact wealtb, cataloguing bis 
books, or scheduling his possessions. It is 
conceivable that this systematic recording of 
his deeds-even of his misdeeds-,vas in some 
sort analogous, sprung from a morbid tidiness 
of mind. It may be a ,veak explanation, but 
it is difficult to advance another one. 
One minor point which must strike the 
reader of Pepys is how musical a nation the 
English of that day appear to have been. 
Everyone seems to have had command of 
some instrument, many of several. Part- 
singing was common. There is not much of 
Charles the Second's days which we need 
envy, but there, at least, they seem to have 



88 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


had the advantage of us. It was real music, 
too-music of dignity and tenderness-with 
words which were worthy of such treatment. 
This cult may have been the last remains of 
those mediæval pre-Refol'mation days when 
the English Church choirs were, as I have 
l'cad somewhere, the most famous in Europe. 
A strange thing this for a land which in the 
whole of last century has produced no single 
lIlaster of the first rank! 
"\Vhat national change is it which has 
driven music from the land? Has life be- 
come so serious that song has passed out of 
it ? In Southern climes one hears poor folk 
sing for pure lightness of heart. In England, 
alas, the sound of a poor man's'voice raised 
in song means only too surely that he is 
drunk. And yet it is consoling to know that 
the germ of the old powers is always there 
ready to sprout forth if they be nourished and 
cultivated. If our cathedral choirs were the 
best in the old Catholic days, it is equally 
true, I believe, that our orchestral aSSOCIa- 
tions are now the best in Europe. So, at 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 89 


least, the German papers said on the occasion 
of the recent visit of a north of England 
choir. But Olle cannot l'ead Pepys without 
knowing that the general musical habit is 
much less cultivated now than of old. 



v 


IT is a long jump from Samuel Pepys to 
George Borrow-from one pole of tIle human 
character to the other-and yet they are in 
contact on the shelf of my favourite authors. 
There is something wonderful, I think, about 
the land of Cornwall. That long peninsula 
extending out into the ocean has caught all 
sorts of strange floating things, and has held 
them there in isolation until they have woven 
themselves into the texture of the Cornish 
race. What is this strange strain which lurks 
down yonder and every now and then throws 
up a great man with singular un-English 
ways and features for all the world to marvel 
at ? It is not Celtic, nor is it the dark old 
Iberian. Further and deeper lie the springs. 
Is it not Semitic, Phænician, the roving men 
of Tyre, with noble Southern faces and 



9 2 THROUGH THE IVIAGIC DOOR 


Oriental imaginations, who have in far-off 
days forgotten their blue Mediterranean and 
settled on the granite shores of the Northern 
Sea? 
Whence came the wonderful face and 
great personality of Henry Irving? How 
strong, how beautiful, how un-Saxon it was! 
I only know that his mother was a Cornish 
\voman. Whence came the intense glowing 
imagination of the Brontës-so unlike the 
Miss-Austen-like calm of their predecessors? 
Again, I only know that their mother was a 
Cornish woman. Whence came this huge 
elfin creature, George Borrow, with his eagle 
head perched on his rocklike shoulders, brown- 
faced, white-headed, a king among men? 
Where did he get that remarkable face, those 
strange mental gifts, which place him by 
himself in literature? Once more, his father 
was a Cornishman. Yes, there is something 
strange, and weird, and great, lurking down 
yonder in the great peninsula which juts into 
the western sea. Borrow may, if he so 
pleases, call himself an East Anglian-" an 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 93 


English Englishman," as be loved to term it 
-but is it a coincidence that the one East 
Anglian born of Cornish blood was the one 
who showed these strange qualities? The 
birth was accidental. The qualities throw 
back to the twilight of the world. 
There are some authors from whom I 
shrink because they are so voluminous that 
I feel that, do what I may, I can never hope 
to be well read in their works. Therefore, 
and very weakly, I avoid them altogether. 
There is Balzac, for example, with his hundred 
odd volumes. I am told that some of them 
are masterpieces and the rest pot-boilers, but 
that no one is agreed which is which. Such 
an author makes an undue claim upon the 
little span of mortal years. Because he asks 
too much one is inclined to give him nothing 
at all. Dumas, too! I stand on the edge of 
him, and look at that huge crop, and content 
myself with a sample here and there. But 
no one could raise this objection to Borrow. 
A month's reading-even for a leisurely reader 
-will master all that he bas written. There 



94 THROUGH THE lVIAGIC DOOI
 


are "Lavengro," "The Bible in Spain," 
"Romany Rye," and, finally, if you wish to 
go further, " Wild Wales." Only four books 
-not much to found a great reputation upon 
-but, then, there are no other four books 
quite like them in the language. 
He was a very strange man, bigoted, 
prejudiced, obstinate, inclined to be sulky, as 
,vayward as a man could be. So far his 
catalogue of qualities does not seem to pick 
him as a winner. But he had one great and 
rare gift. He preserved through all his days 
a sense of the great wonder and mystery of 
life-the child sense which is so quickly 
dullea. Not only did he l
etain it himself, 
but he was word-master enough to make 
other people hark back to it also. As he 
\vrites you cannot help seeing through his 
eyes, and nothing which his eyes saw or his 
ear heard was ever dull or commonplace. It 
was all strange, mystic, with some deeper 
lueaning struggling always to the light. If 
he chronicled his conversation with a washer- 
,vornan there was something arresting in the 



THROUGH THE lYIAGIC DOOR 95 


,yords he said, something singular in her 
reply. If he met a man in a public-house 
one felt, after reading his account, that one 
would ,yish to know more of that man. If 
he approached a town he saw and made you 
see-not a collection of commonplace houses 
or frowsy streets, but something very strange 
and wonderful, the winding river, the noble 
bridge, the old castle, the shadows of the 
dead. Every human being, every object, was 
not so much a thing in itself, as a symbol and 
reminder of the past. He looked through a 
man at that which the man l
epresented. 
Was his name Welsh? Then in an instant 
the individual is forgotten and he is off, 
dragging you in his train, to ancient Britons, 
intrusive Saxons, unheard-of bards, Owen 
Glendower, mountain l
aiders and a thousand 
fascinating things. Or is it a Danish name? 
He leaves the individual in all his modern 
commonplace while he flies off to huge skulls 
at Hythe (in parenthesis I may remark that 
I have examined the said skulls with some 
care, and they seemed to me to be l
ather 


. 



96 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


below the human average), to Vikings, Ber- 
serkers, Varangians, Harald Haardraada, and 
the innate wickedness of the Pope. To 
Borrow all roads lead to Rome. 
But, my word, what English the fellow 
could write! What an organ-roll he could 
get into his sentences! How nervous and 
vital and vivid it all is ! 
There is music in every line of it if you 
have been blessed with an ear for the music 
of prose. Take the chapter in "Lavcngro" 
of how the screaming horror came upon his 
spirit when he was encamped in the Dingle. 
The man who wrote that has caught the true 
mantle of Bunyan and Defoe. And, observe 
the art of it, under all the simplicity-notice, 
for example, the curious weird effect proauced 
by the studied repetition of the word" dingle" 
coming ever round and round like the master- 
note in a chime. Or take the passage about 
Britain towards the end of "The Bible in 
Spain." I hate quoting from these master- 
pieces, if only for the very selfish reason that 
my poor setting cannot afford to show u:{> 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 97 


brilliants. None the less, cost what it may, 
let me transcribe that one noble piece of 
impassioned prose- 


"0 England! long, long may it be ero 
the sun of thy glory sink beneath the wavo 
of darkness! Though gloomy and portentous 
clouds are now gathering rapidly around thee, 
still, still may it please the Almighty to dis- 
perse them, and to grant thee a futurity 
longer in duration and still brighter in renown 
than thy past! Or, if thy doom be at hand, 
rnay tllat doom be a noble one, and worthy 
of bor who has been styled the Ola Queen of 
the waters! May thou sink, if thou dost 
sink, amidst blood and flame, with a mighty 
noise, causing moro than one nation to par- 
ticipate in thy downfall! Of all fates, may 
it please the Lord to preserve thee from a 
disgraceful and a slo,v decay; becoming, ere 
extinct, a scorn and a mockery for those self- 
same foes who now, though they envy and 
abhor thee, still fear thee, nay even against 
their will, honour and respect thee. 
H 



98 THROUGH THE IVIAGIC DOOR 


Removo from thee the false prophets, \vho 
have seen vanity and divined lies; who have 
daubed thy wall \vith untempered mortar, that 
it may fall; ,"vho see visions of peace where 
there is no peace; who have strengthened the 
hands of the wicked, and made the heart of 
the righteous sad. Oh, do this, and fear not 
the result, for either shall thy end be a 
majestic and an enviable one; or God shall 
perpetuate thy reign upon the waters, thou 
Old Queen! " 


Or take the fight with the Flaming Tin- 
man. It's too long for quotation-but l.ead it, 
read every word of it. "Vhere in the language 
can you find a stronger, more condensed alld 
more restrained narrative? I have se-en with 
my own eyes many a noble fight, more than 
ono international battle, where the best of 
two great countries have been pitted against 
each other-yet the second-hand impression 
of Borrow's description leaves a more vivid 
remembrance upon my mind than any of 
them. This is the real \vitchcraft of letters. 



THROUGH TI-IE MAGIC DOOR 99 


He was a great fighter himself. He bas 
left a secure reputation in other than literary 
circles-circles which would have been amazed 
. to learn that he was a writer of books. With 
his natural advantages, his six foot three of 
height and his staglike agility, he could hardly 
fail to be formidable. But 11e was a scientific 
sparrer as well, though he had, I have been 
told, a curious sprawling fashion of his own. 
And how his heart was in it-how he loved 
the fighting men! You remember his thumb- 
nail sketches of his heroes. If yon don't I 
must quote one, and if you do you will be 
glad to read it again- 


" There's Cribb, tho Champioll of England, 
and perhaps tho best man in England; there 
he is, with his huge, massive figure, and faco 
wonderfully like that of a lion. Thero is 
Belcher, the younger, not the mighty one, 
,vho is gone to his place, but the Tencer 
Belcher, the most scientific pugilist that ever 
entered a ring, only wanting strength to be I 
"\von't say what. He appears to walk before 



100 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


me now, as he did that evening, with his 
white hat, white great coat, thin genteel 
figure, springy step, and keen determined eye. 
Crosses him, what a contrast! Grim, savage 
Shelton, who has a civil word for nobody, and 
a hard blow for anybody. Hard! One blow 
given with the proper play of his athletic arm 
will unsense a giant. Yonder individual, 
who strolls about with his hands behind him, 
supporting his brown coat lappets, undersized, 
and who looks anything but wbat he is, is the 
king of the light-weights, so-called-Randall! 
The terrible Randall, who has Irish blood in 
his veins; not the better for that, nor the 
worse; and not far from him is his last 
antagonist, Ned Turner, who, though beaten 
by him, still thinks himself as good a man, 
in which he is, perhaps, right, for it was a 
noar thing. But how sball I name them 
all? They were there by dozens, and all 
tremendous in their way. There was Bulldog 
Hudson, and fearless Scroggins, who beat the 
conqueror of Sam the Jew. There was Black 
Richmond-no, he was not there, but I knew 



THROUGH THE I\IAGIC DOOR 101 


him well; he \vas the most dangerous of 
blacks, even tvith a broken thigh. There was 
Purcell, who could never conquer until all 
seemed over \vith him. There was-what! 
shall I name thee last? Ay, why not? I 
believe that thou art the last of all that strong 
family still above the sod, where mayst thou 
long continue-true piece of English stuff- 
Tom of Bedford. Hail to thee, Tom of 
Bedford, or by whatever name it may please 
thee to be called, Spring or 'Vinter! Hail 
to thee, six-foot Englishman of the brown 
eye, worthy to have carried a six-foot bow at 
Flodden, where England's yeomen triumphed 
over Scotland's King, his clans and chivalry. 
Hail to thee, last of English bruisers, after all 
the many victories which thou hast achieved 
-true English victories, unbought by yellow 
gold. " 


Those are words from the heal
t. Long 
may it be before we lose the fighting blood 
,vhich has come to us from of old! In a 
world of peace we shall at last be able to root 



102 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


it from our natures. In a world which is 
armed to the teeth it is the last and only 
guarantee of Ollr future. Neither our numbers, 
nor our wealth, nor the waters which guard 
us can hold us safe if once the old iron passes 
from our spirit. Barbarous, perhaps-but 
there are possibilities for barbarism, and 
none in this wide ,vorld for effeminacy. 
Borrow's views of literature and of literary 
men were curious. Publisher and brother 
author, he hated them with a fine compre- 
hensive hatred. In all his books I cannot 
recall a wOl
d of commendation to any living 
writer, nor bas he posthumous praise for 
those of the generation immediately preceding. 
Southey, indeed, he commends with what 
most would regard as exaggerated warmth, 
but for the rest he who lived when Dickens, 
FJ. 1 hackeray, and Tennyson were all in their 
glorious prime, looks fixedly past them at 
some obscure Dane or forgotten Welshman. 
The reason was, I expect, that his proud soul 
,vas bitterly wounded by his own eal
ly failures 
aud slow recognition. He knew himself to be 



1'HROUGI-I THE l\IAGIC DOOR 103 


a chief in the clan, and \vhen the clan heeded 
him not he withdrew in haughty disdain. 
Look at his proud, sensitive face and you 
hold the key to his life. 
Harking back and talking of pugilism, I 
recall an incident which gave me pleasure. A 
friend of mine read a pugilistic novel called 
"Rodney Stone" to a famous Australian 
prize-fighter, stretchec1 upon a bed of mortal 
sickness. The dying gladiator listened witll 
intent interest but keen, professional criticism 
to the combats of the novel. The reader had 
got to the point where the young amateul' 
fights the brutal Berks. Berks is winded, but 
holds his adversary off with a stiff left arm. 
The amateur's second in the story, an old 
prize-fighter, shouts some advice to him as 
to how to deal \vith the situation. " That's 
right. By - he's got him 1 " yelled the 
stricken man in the bed. Who cares for 
critics after that? 
You can see my own devotion to the ring 
in that trio of brown volumes vvhich stand, 
appropriately enough, llpon the flank of 



104 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


Borrow. They are the three volumes of 
" Pugilistica," given me years ago by myoId 
friend, Robert Barr, a mine in which you can 
never pick for half an hour without striking 
it rich. Alas! for the horrible slang of those 
days, the vapid witless Corinthian talk, with 
its ogles and its fogIes, its pointless jokes, its 
maddening llabit of italicizing a word or two 
in every sentence. Even these stern and 
desperate encounters, fit sports for the men 
of Albuera and Waterloo, become dull and 
vulgar, in that dreadful jargon. You have to 
turn to Hazlitt's account of the encounter 
bet\veen the Gaslnan and the Bristol Bull, to 
feel the savage strength of it all. It is a 
hardened reader who does not wince even in 
print before that frightful right-hander ,vbich 
felled the giant, and left him in " red ruin" 
from eyebrow to jaw. But even if there be 
no Hazlitt present to describe such a combat 
it is a poor imagination which is not fired by 
the deeds of the humble heroes who lived 
once so vividly upon eartb, and now only 
appeal to faithful ones in these little-read 




 



 


. 


'9, 


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, 


. 


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It
TIÆ.\:L 
'''0", 


"THF. DYI
G GLAIHATOU LISTEXED WITH IN'TE:KT I
TERE
T." 


. 



TI-IROUGI-I THE l\1AGIC DOOR 10 5 


pages. They were picturesque creatures, men 
of great force of character and win, who 
reached the limits of human bravery and 
endurance. There is Jackson on the cover, 
gold upon browD, " gentlelnan Jackson," J ack- 
son of the balustrade calf and the noble heail, 
,vho wrote his name with an 88-pound weight 
dangling from his little finger. 
Here is a pen-portrait of him by one who 
knew him well- 


"I can see him now as I saw him in 
'84 walking down Holborn Hill, towards 
Smithfield. He had on a scarlet coat worked 
in gold at the buttonholes, ruffles and frill 
of fiue lace, a small white stock, no collar 
(they ,vere not then invented), a looped hat 
with a broad black band, buff knee-breeches 
and long silk strings, striped white silk stock- 
ings, pumps and paste buckles; his waist- 
coat was pale blue satin, sprigged with white. 
It was impossible to look on his fine ample 
chest, his noble shoulders, his waist (if any- 
thing too small), his large but not too large 



106 THROUGH 'fHE 
\'ÏAGIC DOOR 


hips, his balustrade calf and beautifully 
turned but not over delicate ankle, his firln 
foot and peculiarly small hand, without 
thinking that nature had sent him on eartll 
as a model. On he went at a good five 
miles and a half an hour, the envy of all 
men and the admiration of all women." 


N ow, that is a discriminating portrait-a 
portrait which really helps you to see that 
which the writer sets out to describe. After 
1.eading it one can understand why even in 
reminiscent sporting descriptions of those 
old days, amid all the Toms and Bills and 
Jacks, it is always :ß1r. John Jackson. He 
was the friend and instructor of Byron and 
of half the bloods in to,vn. Jackson it was 
who, in the heat of combat, seized the J e,v 
1Iendoza by the 11 air, and so ensured that 
the pugs for ever afterwards should be a 
close-cropped race. Inside you see the 
square face of old Broughton, the supreme 
fighting man of the eighteenth century, the 
man whose humble ambition it was to begin 



THROUGH THE 1IAGIC DOOI{ 107 


\vith the pivot man of the Prussian Guard, 
and work his way through the regiment. He 
llad a chronicler, the good Captain Godfrey, 
who has written some English which 
would take some beating. How about this 
passage ?- 


" He stops as regularly as the swordsman, 
and carries his blows truly in the line; he 
steps not back distrusting of himself, to stop 
a blow, and puddle in the return, with an 
arm unaided by his body, producing but fly- 
. 
flap blows. No! Broughton steps boldly 
and firmly in, bids a welcome to the coming 
blow; receives it with his guardia.n arm; 
then, with a general summons of his swelling 
muscles, and his firm body seconding his 
arm, and supplying it with all its weight, 
ponrs the pile-driving forcG upon his man." 


One would like a little more from the 
gallant Captain. Poor Broughton I He 
fought once too often. "Why, damn you, 
you're beat 1 " cried the Royal Duke. " N at 



108 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


beat, your highness, but I can't see my 
man!" cried the blinded old hero. Alas, 
there is the tragedy of the ring as it is of 
life! The wave of youth surges ever up- 
waras, and the wave that went before is 
s,vept sobbing on to the shingle. "Youth 
will be served," said the terse old pugs. 
But what so sad as the downfall of the 
old champion! Wise Tom Spring-Tom 
of Bedford, as Borrow calls him-had the 
wit to leave the ring unconquered in the 
prime of his fame. Cribb also stood out as 
a champion. But Broughton, Slack, Belcher, 
and the rest-their end was one common 
tragedy. 
The latter days of the fighting men were 
often curious and unexpected, though as a, 
rule they Vlere short-lived, for the alternation 
of the excess of their normal existence and 
the asceticism of their training undermined 
their constitution. Their popularity among 
both men and women was their undoing, and 
the king of the ring went down at last before 
that deadliest of light-weights, the microbe 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 109 


of tubercle, or some equally fatal and perhaps 
less reputable bacillus. The crockiest of 
spectators had a better chance of life than 
the magnificent young athlete whom he bad 
come to admire. J em Belcher died at 30, 
Hooper at 31, Pearce, the Game Chicken, 
at 32, Turner at 35, Hudson at 38, Randall, 
the Nonpareil, at 34. Occasionally, when 
they did reach mature age, their lives took 
the strangest turns. Gully, as is well known, 
became a wealthy man, and Member for 
Pontefract in the Reform Parliament. Hum- 
phries developed into a successful coal 
merchant. Jack Martin became a convinced 
teetotaller and vegetarian. J em Ward, the 
Black Diamond, developed considerable powers 
as an artist. Cribb, Spring, Langan, and 
many others, were successful publicans. 
Strangest of all, perhaps, was Broughton, 
who spent his old age haunting every sale 
of old pictures and bric-à-brac. One who saw 
him has recorded his impression of the silent 
old gentleman, clad in old-fashioned garb, 
with his catalogue in bis band-Broughton, 


, 



lID THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


once the terror of England, and now the 
harmless and gentle collector. 
Many of them, as was but natural, died 
violent deaths, some by accident and a few 
by their own hands. No man of the first 
class ever died in the ring. The nearest 
approach to it was the singular and mournful 
fate which befell Simon Byrne, the brave 
Irishman, Wll0 had the misfortune to cause 
the death of his antagonist, Angus Mackay, 
and afterwards met his own end at the 
llands of Deaf Burke. N either Byrne nor 
Mackay could, however, be said to be boxel's 
of the very first rank. It certainly would 
appear, if we may argue from the prize-ring, 
tllat the lluman machine becomes moro 
delicate and is more sensitive to jar or shock. 
In the early days a fatal end to a fight was 
exceedingly rare. Gradually such tragedies 
became rather more common, until now 
even with the gloves they have shocked us 
by their frequency, and we feel that the 
rude play of our forefathers is indeed too 
rough for a more higl1ly organized generation, 



THROUGH THE l\1AGIC DOOR I I I 


Still, it may help us to clear our minds of 
cant if we remember that within two or 
three years the hunting-field and the steeple- 
chase claim more victims than the prize-ring 
has done in two centuries. 
l\Iany of these men had served their 
country well with that strength and courage 
which brought them fame. Cribb was, if I 
mistake not, in the Royal Navy. So was 
the terrible dwarf Scroggins, all chest and 
shoulders, whose springing bits for many a 
year carried all before them until the canny 
vVelshman, Ned Turner, stopped his career, 
only to be stopped in turn by the brilliant 
Irishman, Jack Randall. Shaw, who stood 
11igh among the heavy-weights, was cut to 
pieces by the French Cuirassiers in the first 
charge at Waterloo. The brutal Berks died 
greatly in the breach of Badajos. The lives 
of these men stood for something, and that 
was just the one supreme thing which the 
times called for-an unflinching enduranco 
which could bear up against a world in arms. 
Look at Jem Belcher-beautiful, heroic Jem, 


, 



112 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


a manlier Byron-but there, this is not an 
essay on the old prize-ring, and one man's 
lore is another man's bore. Let us pass 
those three low-down, unjustifiable, fascinating 
volumes, and on to nobler topics beyond! 



VI 


WHICH are the great short stories of the 
English language? Not a bad basis fOl" a 
debate! This I am sure of: that there are 
far fewer supremely good short stories than 
there are supremely good long books. It 
takes more exquisite skill to carve the cameo 
than the statue. But the strangest thing is 
that the two excellences seem to be separate 
and even antagonistic. Skill in the one by no 
means ensures skill in the other. The great 
mastel"S of our literature, Fielding, Scott, 
Dickens, Thackeray, Reade, have left no 
single short story of outstanding merit behind 
them, with the possible exception of Wander- 
ing Willie's Tale in "Red Gauntlet." On tho 
other hand, men who have been very great 
in the short story, Stevenson, Poe, and Bret 
Harte, have written no great book. The cham- 
pion sprinter is seldom a five-miler as well. 
I 


, 



114 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


Well, now, if you had to choose your team 
whom ,vould you put in? You have not 
really a large choice. What are the points 
by which you judge them? You 'v ant 
strength, novelty, compactness, intensity of 
interest, a single vivid impression left upon 
the mind. Poe is the master of all. I Inay 
remark by the way that it is the sight of 
his green cover, the next in order upon my 
favourite shelf, ,vhich has started this train 
of thought. Poe is, to my mind, the supreme 
original short story writer of all time. His 
brain ,vas like a seed-pod full of seeds which 
flew carelessly around, and from which have 
sprung nearly all our modern types of story. 
Just think of what he did in his offhand, 
prodigal fashion, seldom troubling to repeat 
a success, but pushing on to some ne\v 
achievement. To him must be ascribed the 
monstrous progeny of writers on the detectioll 
of crime-" quorul1
 pars parva fui!" Each 
may find some little development of his own, 
but his main art must trace back to those 
admirable stories of Monsieur Dupin, so 



fHROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR lIS 


wonderful in their masterful force, their 
reticence, their quick dramatic point. After 
all, mental acuteness is the one quality which 
can be ascribed to the ideal detective, and 
,vhen that has once been admirably done, 
succeeding writers must necessarily be oon- 
tent for all time to follow in the same main 
track. But not only is Poe the originator 
of the detective story; all treasure-hunting, 
cryptogram-solving yarns trace back to his 
"Gold Bug," just as all pseudo-scientific 
Verne-and-Wells stories have their prototypes 
in the " Voyage to the Moon," and the" Case 
of Monsieur Valdemar." If every man who 
receives a cheque for a story which owes its 
springs to Poe were to pay tithe to a monu- 
ment for the master, he would have a pyramid 
as big as that of Cheops. 
And yet I could only give him two places 
in my team. One would be for the "Gold 
Bug," the other for the" Murder in the Rue 
1Iorgue." I do not see how either of those 
could be bettered. But I would not admit 
perfect excellence to any other of his stories. 



116 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


'These two have a proportion and a perspective 
wbich are lacking in the others, the horror 
or weirdness of the idea intensified by the 
coolness of the narrator and of the principal 
actor, Dupin in the one case and Le Grand 
in the other. The same may be said of Bret 
Harte, also one of those great short story 
tellers ,vho proved himself incapable of a 
longer flight. He was always like one of his 
o,vn gold-miners who struck a rich pocket, 
but found no continuous reef. The pocket 
was, alas, a very limited one, but the gold 
was of the b
st. "The Luck of Roaring 
Camp" and" Tennessee's Partner" are both, 
I think, worthy of a place among my im- 
mortals. They are, it is true, so tinged with 
Dickens as to be almost parodies of tho 
Inastel., but they have a symmetry and satis- 
fying completeness as short stories to which 
Dickens bimself never attained. The man 
who can read those two stories without a 
gulp in the throat is not a man I envy. 
And Stevenson? Surely he shall bave 
two places also, for where is a finer sellse of 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 117 


what the short story can do? He wrote, in 
my judgment, two masterpieces in his life, 
and each of them is essentially a short story, 
though the one happened to be published as 
a volume. The one is "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. 
Hyde," which, whether you take it as a vivid 
narrative or as a wonderfully deep and true 
allegory, is a supremely fine bit of work. The 
other story of my choice would be "The 
Pavilion on the Links "-the very model of 
dramatic narrative. That story stamped 
itself so clearly on my brain when I read it 
in Cornhill that when I came across it again 
many years afterwards in volume form, I was 
able instantly to recognize two small modifi- 
cations of the text-each very much for the 
worse-from the original form. They were 
small things, but they seemed somehow like 
a chip on a perfect statue. Surely it is only 
a very fine work of art which could leave so 
definite an impression as that. Of course, 
there are a dozen other of his stories which 
would put the average writer's best work to 
shame, all with the strange Stevenson glamou
. 


. 



lIS THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


upon them, of which I may discourse later, 
but only to those two would I be disposed to 
admit that complete excellence which would 
pass them into such a team as this. 
And who else? If it be not an imperti- 
nence to mention a contemporary I should 
certainly have a brace from Rudyard Iiipling. 
His po"\ver, 11is compression, his dramatic 
sense, his way of glowing suddenly into a 
vivid flame, all mark him as a great mastel.. 
But which are we to choose from that long 
and varied collection, many of which have 
claims to the highest? Speaking from 
memory, I should say that the stories of his 
which have impressed me most are "The 
DruIDs of the Fore and Aft," "The l\fan who 
Would be I{ing," "The Man who Was," and 
"The Brushwood Boy." Perhaps, on the 
whole, it is the first two which I should 
choose to add to my list of masterpieces. 
They are stories which invite criticism 
and yet defy it. The great batsman at cricket 
is the man ,vho can play an unorthodox game, 
take every liberty which is denied to inferior 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 119 


players, and yet succeed brilliantly in the 
face of his disregard of law. So it is here. 
I should think the model of these stories is 
the most dangerous that any young writer 
could follow. There is digression, that most 
deadly fault in the short narrative; there is 
incoherence, there is want of proportion 
,vhich makes the story stand still for pages 
and bound forward in a few sentences. But 
genius overrides all that, just as the great 
cricketer hooks the off ball and glides the 
straight one to leg. There is a dash, an 
exuberance, a full-blooded, confident mastery 
which carries everything before it. Yes, no 
team of immortals would be complete which 
did not contain at least two representatives 
of Kipling. 
And now whom? Nathaniel Hawthorne 
never appealed in the highest degree to me. 
The fault, I am sure, is my own, but I always 
seemed to crave stronger fare than he gave 
me. It was too subtle, too elusive, for effect. 
Indeed, I have been more affected by some 
of the short ,vork of his son Julian, though 


" 



120 THROUGH THE l\lAGIC DOOR 


I can quite understand the high artistic 
claims which the senior writer has, and the 
delicate charm of his style. There is Bulwer 
Lytton as a claimant. His" Haunted and 
the Haunters" is the very best ghost story 
that I know. As such I should include it in 
my list. There was a story, too, in one of the 
old BlacklDoods-" Metempsychosis" it was 
called, which left so deep an impression upon 
my mind that I should be inclined, though 
it is many years since I read it, to number it 
with the best. Another story which has the 
characteristics of great work is Grant Allen's 
"John Creedy." So good a story upon so 
philosophic a basis deserves a place among 
the best. There is some first-class work to 
be picked also from the contemporary work 
of Wells and of Quiller-Couch which 1geaclles 
a high standard. 011e little sketch-" Old 
<Eson" in "Noughts and Crosses" -is, in 
my opinion, as good as anything of the kind 
which I have ever read. 
And all this didactic talk comes from 
looking at that old green cover of Poe. I 



'}tb.., 

 


! ( 


'\, 


" 


!' 


\ ..., 


I 


.? ' 


" 


.. 


. ... 


NATHA
IEL HA WTHOR};'E. 


. 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 121 


am sure that if I had to name the few books 
which have really influenced my own life I 
should have to put this one second only to 
lvIacaulay's Essays. I read it young when my 
mind was plastic. It stimulated my imagina- 
tion and set before me a supreme example of 
dignity and force in the methods of telling [L 
story. It is not altogether a healthy influence, 
perhaps. It turns the thoughts too forcibly to 
the morbid and the strange. 
He was a saturnine creature, devoid of 
humour and geniality, with a love for the 
grotesque ana the terrible. The reader must 
himself furnish the counteracting qualities or 
Poe may become a dangerous comrade. We 
know along what perilous tracks and into what 
deadly quagmires his strange mind led hirn, 
do"\vn to that grey October Sunday morning, 
when he was picked up, a dying man, on the 
side-walk at Baltimore, at an age which should 
have seen him at the very prime of his strength 
and his manhood. 
I have said that I look upon Poe as the 
world's supreme short story writer. His nearest 



122 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


rival, I should say, was Maupassant. The 
great Norman never Jose to the extreme force 
and originality of the American, but he had a 
natural inherited power, an inborn instinct 
towards the right way of making his effects, 
which mark him as a great master. He pro- 
duced stories because it was in him to do so, 
as naturally and as perfectly as an apple tree 
produces apples. What a fine, sensitive, artistic 
touch it is! How easily and delicately tho 
points are made! How clear and nervous is 
his style, and how free from that redundancy 
which disfigures so much of our English work! 
He pares it down to the quick all the time. 
I cannot write the name of Maupassant 
without recalling what was either a spiritual 
interposition or an extraordinary coincidence 
in my own life. I had been travelling in 
Switzerland and had visited, among other 
places, that Gemmi Pass, where a huge cliff 
separates a French from a German canton. 
On the summit of this cliff was a small inn, 
where we broke our journey. It was explained 
to us that, although the inn was inhabited all 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 123 


the year round, still for about three months in 
winter it was utterly isolated, because it could 
at any time only be approached by winding 
paths on the mountain side, and when theso 
became obliterated by snow it was impossible 
either to come up or to descend. They could 
see the lights in the valley beneath them, but 
were as lonely as if tbey lived in the moon. 
So curious a situation naturally appealed to 
one's imagination, and I speedily began to 
build up a short story in my own mind, 
depending upon a group of strong antagonistic 
characters being penned up in this inn, 
loathing each other and yet utterly unable to 
get away from each other's society, every day 
bringing them nearer to tragedy. For a week 
or so, as I travelled, I was turning over tho 
idea. 
At the end of that time I returned through 
France. Having nothing to read I happened 
to buy a volume of Maupassant's Tales which 
I bad never seen before. The first story was 
called "L'Auberge " (The Inn)-and as I ran 
my eye down the printed page I was amazed 



12 4 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


to see the two words, "Kandersteg" and 
"Gemmi Pass." I settled down and read it 
with ever-growing amazement. The scene 
was laid in the inn I had visited. The plot 
depended on the isolation of a group of 
people through the snowfall. Everything 
that I imagined was there, save that Mau- 
passant had brought in a savage hound. 
Of course, the genesis of the thing is clear 
enough. He had chanced to visit the inn, and 
had been impressed as I had been by the sarno 
train of thought. All that is quite intelligible. 
But what is perfectly marvellous is that in 
that short journey I should have chanced to 
buy the one book in all the world which would 
prevent me from making a public fool of my- 
self, for who would ever have believed that my 
work was not an imitation? I do not think 
that the hypothesis of coincidence can cover 
the facts. It is one of several incidents in 
my life which have convinced me of spiritual 
intel"position-of the promptings of some 
beneficent force outside ourselves, which tries 
to help us where it can. The old Catholic 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 12 5 


doctrine of the Guardian Angel is not only 
a beautiful one, but has in it, I believe, a 
real basis of truth. 
Or is it that our subliminal ego, to use the 
jargon of the new psychology, or our astral, in 
the terms of the new theology, can learn and 
convey to the mind that which our own known 
senses are unable to apprehend? But that is 
too long a side track for us to turn down it. 
When Maupassant chose he could run Poe 
close in that domain of the stl.ange and weird 
which the American had made so entirely his 
own. Have you read Maupassant's story 
called "La Horla"? That is as good a bit 
of diablerie as you could wish for. And the 
Frenchman has, of course, far the broader 
range. He has a keen sense of humour, 
breaking out beyond all decorum in some of 
his stories, but giving a pleasant sub-flavour 
to all of them. And yet, when all is said, 
who can doubt that the austere and dreadful 
American is far the greater and more original 
mind of the two? 
Talking of weird American stories, have 



126 'rHROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


you ever read any of the works of Ambrose 
Bierce? I have one of his works there, "In 
the Midst of Life." This man had a flavour 
quite his own, and was a great artist in his 
way. It is not cheering reading, but it leaves 
its mark upon you, and that is the proof of 
good work. 
I have often wondel.ed where Poe got his 
style. There is a sombre majesty about his 
best work, as if it were carved from polished 
jet, which is peculiarly his own. I dare say if 
I took down that volume I could light any- 
,vhere upon a paragraph which ,vould show 
you what I mean. This is the kind of thing- 


"Now there are fine tales in the volumes 
of the J\lagi-in the iron-bound melancholy 
volumes of the Magi. Therein, I sa.y, are 
glorious histories of the heaven and of the 
earth, and of the mighty sea-and of the 
genius that overruled the sea, and the earth, 
and the lofty heaven. Tbere was much lore, 
too, in the sayings which were said by the 
Sybils, and holy, holy things were heard of 



THROUGH THE 11AGIC DOOR 1 2 7 


old by the dim leaves which trembled round 
Dodona, but as Allah liveth, that fable which 
the Demon told me as he sat by my side in 
the shado\v of the tomb, I hold to be the most 
wonderful of alL" Or this sentence: "And 
then did we, the seven, start from our seats in 
Ilorlor, and stand trembling and aghast, for 
the tones in the voic.e of the shadow were not 
the tones of anyone being, but of a multitude 
of beings, and, varying in their cadences from 
syllable to syllable, fell duskily upon our ears 
in the well-remembered and familiar accents 
of many thousand departed friends." 


Is there not a sense of austere dignity? 
No man invents a style. It always derives back 
from some influence, or, as is more usual, it is a 
compromise between several influences. I can- 
not trace Poe's. And yet if Hazlitt and De 
Quincey had set forth to tell weird stories they 
might have developed something of the kind. 
Now, by your leave, we will pass on to 
my noble edition of "The Cloister and the 
Hearth," the next volume on the left. 



128 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


I notice, in glancing over my rambling 
remarks, that I classed "Ivanhoe" as the 
second historical novel of the century. I 
dare say there are many who would give 
" Esmond" the first place, and I can quite 
understand their position, although it is not 
my own. I recognize the beauty of the style, 
the consistency of the character-drawing, the 
absolutely perfect Queen Anne atmosphere. 
There was never an historical novel written 
by a man who knew his period so thoroughly. 
But, great as these virtues are, they are not 
the essential in a novel. The essential in a 
novel is interest, though Addison unkindly 
remarked that the real essential was that the 
pastrycooks should never run short of paper. 
Now" Esmond" is, in my opinion, exceed- 
ingly interesting during the campaigns in the 
Lowlands, and when our Machiavelian hero, 
the Duke, comes in, and also whenever Lord 
Mohun shows his ill-omened face; but there 
are long stretches of the story which are 
lleavy reading. A pre-eminently good novel 
must always advance and nevel' mark time. 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 129 


" Ivanhoe" never halts for an instant, and 
that just makes its superiority as a novel over 
" Esmond," though as a piece of literature I 
think the latter is the more perfect. 
No, if I had three votes, I should plump 
them all for "The Cloister and the Hearth," 
as being our greatest historical novel, and, in- 
deed, as being our greatest novel of any sort. 
I think I may claim to have l-ead most of the 
more famous foreign novels of last century, 
and (speaking only for myself and within 
the limits of my reading) I have been more 
impressed by that book of Reade's and by 
'l'olstoi's "Peace and War" than by any 
others. They seem to me to stand at the 
very top of the century's fiction. There is 
a certain resemblance in the two-the sense 
of space, the number of figures, the way in 
which characters drop in and drop out. The 
Englishman is the more l.omantic. The 
Russian is the more real and earnest. But 
they are both great. 
Think of what Reade does in that one 
book. He t
tkes the reader by the bana, 
K 


, 



130 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


and he leads him a,vay into the 1\Iiddle 
Ages, and not a conventional study-built 
lVliddle Age, but a period quivering with 
life, full of folk ,vho are as human and real 
as a 'bus-load in Oxford Street. He takes 
him through Holland, he shows bim the 
11ainters, the dykes, the life. He leads him 
down the long line of the Rhine, the spinal 
nlarrow of l\fediæval Europe. He shows him 
the dawn of printing, the beginnings of 
freedom, the life of the great mercantile 
cities of South Germany, the state of Italy, 
the artist-life of Rome, the monastic insti- 
tutions on the eve of the Refol.mation. And 
all this between the covers of one book, so 
naturally introduced, too, and told with such 
vividness and spirit. Apart from the huge 
scope of it, the mere study of Gerard's own 
nature, his l.ise, his fall, his regeneration, 
the whole pitiable tragedy at the end, make 
the book a great one. It contains, I think, 
a blending of knowledge with imagination, 
which makes it stand alone in our literature. 
Let anyone read the "Autobiography of 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 131 


Benvenuto Cellini," and then Charles Reade's 
picture of Mediæval Roman life, if he wishes 
to appreciate the way in which Reade has 
collected his rough are and has then smelted 
it all do,vn in his fiery imagination. It is 
a good thing to have the industry to collect 
facts. It is a greater and a rarer one to 
have the tact to know how to use them 
when J"ou have got them. To be exact 
,vithout pedantry, and thorough without being 
dull, that should be the ideal of the writer of 
historical romance. 
Reade is one of the most perplexing 
figures in our literature. N ever ,vas there 
a man so hard to place. At his best he is 
the best we have. At his worst he is below 
the level of Surreyside melodrama. But his 
best have weak pieces, and his worst have 
good. There is always silk among his cotton, 
and cotton among his silk. But, for all his 
flaws, the man who, in addition to the great 
book of which I have already spoken, wrote 
"It is Never Too Late to Mend" "Hard 
, 
Cash" "Foul Pla y " and " G riffith Gaunt" 
l' , 



13 2 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


must always stand in the very first rank of 
our novelists. 
There is a quality of heart about his 
,york which I loecognize nowhere else. He 
so absolutely loves his own heroes and 
heroines, while he so cordially detests his 
o"\vn villains, that he sweeps your emotions 
along with his own. No one has ever spoken 
,varmly enough of the humanity and the 
lovability of his women. It is a rare gift- 
very rare for a man-this power of drawing 
a human and delightful girl. If there is 
a better one in nineteenth-century fiction 
than Julia Dodd I have never had the 
pleasure of meeting her. A man who could 
draw a character so delicate and so delightful, 
and yet could write such an episode as that 
of the Robber Inn in "The Cloister and 
the Hearth," adventurous romance in its 
highest form, has such a range of power as 
is granted to few men. My hat is always 
ready to come off to Charles Reade. 



VII 


IT is good to have the magic door shut behind 
us. On the other side of that door are the 
world and its troubles, hopes and fears, head- 
aches and heartaches, ambitions and dis.. 
appointments; but within, as you lie back 
on the green settee, and face the long lines of 
your silent soothing comrades, there is only 
peace of spirit and rest of mind in the 
company of the great dead. Learn to love, 
learn to admire them; learn to know what 
their comradeship means; for until you have 
done so the greatest solace and anodyne 
God has given to man have not yet shed 
their blessing upon you. Here behind this 
magic door is the rest house, where you may 
forget the past, enjoy the present, and prepare 
for the future. 
You who have sat 
1ith me before upon 



134 THR01JGH TI-IE MAGIC DOOR 


the green settee are familiar ,vith the upper 
shelf, with the tattered 1facaulay, the dapper 
Gibbon, the drab Bos\vell, the olive-green 
Scott, the pied Borrow, and all the goodly 
company who rub shoulders yonder. By the 
way, how one wishes that one's dear friends 
would only be friends also with eacll other. 
Why should Borrow snarl so churlishly at 
Scott? One would have thought that noble 
spirit and romantic fancy ,vould have charmec1 
the huge vagrant, and yet there is no word 
too bitter for the younger man to use towards 
the elder. The fact is that Borro\v had one 
dangerous virus in him-a poison which dis- 
torts the \vhole vision-for he was a bigoted 
sectarian in religion, seeing no virtue outside 
his o,vn interpretation of the great l'iddle. 
Downright heathendom, the blood-stained 
Berserk or the chaunting Druid, appealed to 
his mind through his imagination, but the 
man of his own creed and time who differec1 
from him in minutiæ of ritual, 01
 in the 
interpretation of mystic passages, was at once 
evil to the bone, and he had no charity of any 



THROUGI-I THE lYIAGIC DOOR 135 


sort for such a person. Scott therefore, witll 
his reverent regard for old usages, became at 
once hateful in his eyes. In any case he was 
a disappointed man, the big Borrow, and I 
cannot rer.aem bel' that he ever had much to 
say that was good of any brother author. 
Only in the bards of Wales and in the Scalds 
of the Sagas did he seem to find his kindred 
spirits, though it has been suggested that his 
complex nature took this means of informing 
the world that he could read both Cymric and 
Norse. But we must not be unkind behind 
the magic door-and yet to be charitable to 
the uncharitable is surely the crown of virtue. 
So much for the top line, concerning 
which I have already gossipped for six 
sittings, but there is no surcease for you, 
reader, for as you see there is a second line, 
and yet a third, all equally dear to my heart, 
and all appealing in the same degree to my 
emotions and to my memory. Be as patient 
as you may, while I talk of these old friends, 
and tell you why I love them, and all that 
they haye meant to me in the past. If you 


. 



136 THROUGH THE M.J\GIC DOOR 


picked any book from that line you would be 
picking a little fibre also from my mind, very 
small, no doubt, and yet an intimate and 
essential part of what is now myself. Here- 
ditary impulses, personal experiences, books 
-those are the three forces which go to the 
making of man. These are the books. 
This second line consists, as you see, of 
novelists of the eighteenth century, or those 
of them whom I regard as essential. After 
all, putting aside single books, such as Sterne's 
"Tristram Shandy," Golasmith's "Vicar of 
Wakefield," and Miss Burney's "Evelina," 
there are only three authors ,vho count, and 
they in turn wrote only three books each, of 
first-rate importance, so that by the mastery 
of nine books one might claim to have a fairly 
broad view of this most important and dis- 
tinctive branch of English literature. The 
three men are, of course, Fielding, Richardson, 
and Smollett. The books are: Richardson's 
"Clarissa Harlowe," "Pamela," and "Sir 
Charles Grandison"; Fielding's" Tom Jones," 
"J oseph Andrews," and" Amelia"; Smollett's 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 137 


"Peregrine Pickle," "Humphrey Clinker," 
and "Roderick Random." There we have 
the real work of the three great contemporaries 
,vho illuminated the middle of the eighteenth 
century-only nine volumes in all. Let us 
walk round these nine volumes, therefore, and 
see whethel'l we cannot discriminate and throw 
a little light, after this interval of a hundred 
and fifty years, upon their comparative aims, 
and how far they have justified them by the 
permanent value of their work. A fat little 
bookseller in the City, a rakehell wit of noble 
blood, and a rugged Scotch surgeon from the 
navy-those are the three strange immortals 
who now challenge a comparison-the three 
men who dominate the fiction of theu" century, 
and to whom we owe it that the life and the 
types of that century are familiar to us, their 
fifth generation. 
It is not a subject to be dogmatic upon, 
for I can imagine that these three writers 
would appeal quite differently to every 
temperament, and that whichevel'l one migbt 
desire to champion one could find arguments 



13 8 THROUGH THE l\IAGIC DOOR 


to sustain one's choice. Yet I cannot think 
that any large section of the critical public 
could maintain that Smollett was on the same 
level as the other two. Ethically he is gross, 
though his grossness is accompanied by a 
full-blooded humour which is more mirth- 
compelling than the more polished wit of bis 
l"ivals. I can remember in callow boyhood- 
J]uris ontnia pU1"a-reading " Peregrine Pickle," 
and laughing until I cried over tbe Banquet 
in the Fashion of the Ancients. I read it 
again in my manhood with the same effect, 
though with a greater appreciation of its 
inherent bestiality. That merit, a gross 
primitive merit, be bas in a high degree, 
but in no other respect can he challenge 
comparison with either Fielding or Richardson. 
His view of life is far more limited, his 
characters less varied, his incidents less dis- 
tinctive, and his thoughts less deep. 
Assuredly I, for one, should award him tbe 
third place in the trio. 
But how about Richardson and Fielding? 
Tllere is indeed a conlpetition of giants. Let 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 139 


us take the points of each in turn, and then 
compare them with each other. 
There is one characteristic, the rarest and 
subtlest of all, which each of them had in a 
supreme degree. Each could draw the most 
delightful women-the most perfect womell, 
I think, in the whole range of our literature. 
If the eighteenth-century women were like 
that, then the eighteenth-century men got a 
great deal more than they ever deserved. 
They had such a charming little dignity of 
their own, such good sense, and yet such 
dear, pretty, dainty ways, so human and so 
charming, that even now they become our 
ideals. One cannot come to know them 
without a double emotion, ODe of respectful 
devotion towards themselves, and the other 
of abhol'rence for the herd of swine who 
surrounded them. Pamela, Harriet Byron, 
Clarissa, Amelia, and Sophia Western were 
all equally delightful, and it was not the 
negative charm of the innocent and colourless 
woman, the amiable doll of the nineteenth 
century, but it was a beauty of nature 



14 0 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


depending upon an alert mind, clear and 
strong principles, true womanly feelings, and 
complete feminine charm. In this respect our 
I'ival authors may claim a tie, for I could not 
give a preference to one set of these perfect 
creatures over another. The plump little 
printer and the worn-out man-about-town 
had each a supreme woman in his mind. 
But their men! Alas, what a drop is 
there! To say that we are all capable of 
doing what Tom Jones did-as I have seen 
stated-is the worst form of inverted cant, 
the cant which makes us out worse than we 
are. It is a libel on mankind to say that 
a man who truly loves a woman is usually 
false to her, and, above all, a libel that bo 
should be false in the vile fashion whicl1 
aroused good Tom N e"\vcome's indignation. 
TOln Jones was no more fit to touch the hem 
of Sophia's dress than Captain Booth was to 
be the mate of Amelia. Never once has 
Fielding drawn a gentleman, save perhaps 
Squire Alworthy. A lusty, brawling, good. 
hearted, lllaterial creature was the best that 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 14 1 


he could fashion. Where, in his heroes, is 
. 
there one touch of distinction, of spirituality, 
of nobility? Here I think that the plebeian 
printer has done very much better than the 
aristocrat. Sir Charles Grandison is a very 
l10ble type-spoiled a little by over-coddling 
on the part of his creator perhaps, but a very 
high-souled and exquisite gentleman all the 
same. Had he married Sophia or Amelia I 
should not have forbidden the banns. Even 
the persevering Mr. B-- and the too 
amorous Lovelace were, in spite of their 
aberrations, men of gentle nature, and had 
possibilities of greatness and tenderness 
within them. Yes, I cannot doubt that 
Richardson drew the higher type of man- 
and that in Grandison he has done what has 
seldom or never been bettered. 
Richardson was also the subtler and deepor 
writer in my opinion. He concerns himself 
with fine consistent character-drawing, and 
with a very searching analysis of the human 
heart, which is done so easily, and in such 
simple English, that the depth and truth of 



142 THROUGH THE l\IAGIC DOOR 


it only come upon reflection. He condescends 
to none of those scuffies and buffetings and 
pantomime l'allies which enliven, but cheapen, 
many of Fielding's pages. The latter has, 
it may be granted, a broader view of life. He 
had personal acquaintance of circles far above, 
and also far belo,v, any which the douce 
citizen, who ,vas his rival, had ever been able 
or willing to explore. His pictures of lo,v 
London life, the prison scenes in " Amelia," 
the thieves' kitchens in ' , Jonathan Wild," 
the sponging houses and the slums, are as 
vivid and as complete as those of his friend 
Hogarth-the most British of artists, even 
as Fielding was the most British of writers. 
But the greatest and most permanent facts 
of life are to be found in the smallest circles. 
T\vo men and a woman may furnish either 
the tragedian or the comedian with the 
most satisfying theme. And so, although his 
l"ange was limited, Richardson knew very 
clearly and very thoroughly just that know- 
ledge which was essential for his purpose. 
Panlela, the perfect woman of humble life, 



, 


. 


,.... 


SAMUEL RICHAHDSON. 
Frum tlte Pailltill!! b.1J J()
('plt lIi!JTwwre. 


-. 


!II 


. 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 143 


Clarissa the perfect lady, Grandison the ideal 
gentleman-these were the three figures on 
which he lavished his most loving art. And 
now, after one hundred and fifty years, I do 
not know where we may find more satisfying 
types. 
He ,vas prolix, it may be admitted, but 
who could bear to have him cut? He loved 
to sit down and tell you just all about it. 
His use of letters for his narratives made this 
gossipy style more easy. First he \vrites and 
he tells all that passed. You have his letter. 
Slle at the same time writes to her friend, and 
also states her views. This also you see. 
The friends in each case reply, and you have 
the advantage of their comments and advice. 
You really do know all about it before you 
finish. It may be a little wearisome at first, 
if you have been accustomed to a more 
hustling style with fire\vorks in every chapter. 
But gradually it creates an atmosphere in 
\vhich you live, and you come to know these 
people, with their characters and their 
troubles, as you know no others of the 



144 THROUGH THE IvIAGIC DOOR 


dream-folk of fiction. Three times as long as 
an ordinary book no doubt, but why grudge 
the time? What is the hurry? Surely it 
is better to read one masterpiece than three 
books which will leave no permanent impres... 
sion on the mind. 
It was all attuned to the sedate life of 
that, the last of the quiet centuries. In the 
lonely country-house, with few letters and 
fewer papers, do you suppose that the readers 
ever complained of the length of a book, or 
could have too much of the happy Pamela or 
of the unhappy Clarissa? It is only under 
extraordinary circumstances that one can 
now get into that receptive frame of mind 
which was normal then. Such an occasion 
is recorded by Macaulay, when he tells how 
in some Indian hill station, where books were 
rare, he let loose a copy of " Clarissa." The 
effect was what might bave been expected. 
Richardson in a suitable environment went 
through the community like a mild fever. They 
lived him, and dreamed him, until the whole 
episode passed into literary history, never to 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 145 


be forgotten by those who experienced it. 
It is tuned for every ear. That beautiful 
style is so correct and yet so simple that there 
is no page which a scholar may not applaud 
nor a servant-maid understand. 
Of course, there are obvious disadvantages 
to the tale which is told in letters. Scott 
I-everted to it in "Guy Mannering," and there 
are other conspicuous successes, but vividness 
is always gained at the expense of a strain 
upon the reader's good-nature and credulity. 
One feels that these constant details, these 
long conversations, could not possibly have 
been recorded in such a fashion. The in- 
dignant and dishevelled heroine could not 
sit down and record her escape with such 
cool minuteness of description. Richardson 
does it as well as it could be done, but it 
remains intrinsically faulty. Fielding, using 
the third person, broke all the fetters which 
bound his rival, and gave a freedom anù 
personal authority to the novel which it had 
never before enjoyed. There at least he is 
the master. 


L 



146 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


And yet, on the whole, my balancelinclines 
towards Richardson, though I dare say I am 
one in a hundred in thinking so. First of 
all, beyond anything I may have already 
urged, he had the supreme credit of having 
been the first. Surely the originator shoulù 
11ave a higher place than the imitator, even 
if in imitating he should also improve and 
amplify. It is Richardson and not Fielding 
who is the father of the English novel, the 
man who first saw that without Tomantic 
gallantry, and without bizarre imaginings, 
entllralling stories may be made from every- 
day life, told in everyday language. This 
was his great new departure. So entirely 
was Fielding his imitator, or rather perhaps 
bis parodist, that with supreme audacity 
(some would say brazen impudence) he used 
poor Richardson's own characters, taken from 
" Pamela " in his own first novel, "J osepb 
Andrews," and used them too for the unkind 
purpose of ridiculing them. As a matter of 
literal"y ethics, it is as if Thackeray wrote a 
novel bringing in Pickwick and Sam 'Veller 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 147 


in order to show what faulty characters these 
were. It is no wonder that even the gentle 
little printer grew wrath, and alluded to his 
l.ival as a somewhat unscrupulous mall. 
And then there is the vexed question of 
morals. Surely in talking of this also, there 
is a good deal of inverted cant among a 
certain class of critics. The inference ap- 
pears to be that there is some subtle con- 
nection between immorality and art, as if 
the handling of the lewd, or the depicting 
of it, were in some sort the hallmark of the 
true artist. It is not difficult to handle or 
depict. On the contrary, it is so easy, and 
so essentially dramatic in many of its forms, 
that the temptation to employ it is ever 
present. It is the easiest and cheapest of 
all methods of creating a spurious effect. 
The difficulty does not lie in doing it. The 
difficulty lies in avoiding it. But one tries 
to avoid it because on the face of it there 
is no reason why a writer should cease to 
be a gentleman, or that be should write for 
a \vornan's eyes that which he would be 


. 



148 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


justly knocked down for having said in a 
woman's ears. But" you must draw the 
world as it is." Why must you? Surely 
it is just in selection and restraint that the 
artist is shown. It is true that in a coarser 
age great writers heeded no restrictions, 
but life itself had fewer restrictions then. 
Weare of our own age, and must live up 
to it. 
But must these sides of life be absolutely 
excluded? By no means. Our decency need 
not weaken into prudery. It all lies in the 
spirit in which it is done. No one who 
wished to lecture on these various spirits 
could preach on a better text than these 
three great rivals, Richardson, Fielding, and 
Smollett. It is possible to draw vice with 
some freedom for the purpose of condemning 
it. Such a writer is a moralist, and there is 
no better example than Richardson. Again, 
it is possible to draw vice with neither 
sympathy nor disapprobation, but simply as 
a fact which is there. Such a writer is a 
realist, and such was Fielding. Once more, 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 149 


it is possible to draw vice in order to extract 
amusement from it. Such a man is a coarse 
humorist, and such was Smollett. Lastly, 
it is possible to draw vice in order to show 
sympathy with it. SUCll a man is a wicked 
man, and there were many among the writers 
of the Restoration. But of all reasons that 
exist for treating this side of life, Richardson's 
were the best, and nowhere do we find it 
more deftly done. 
Apart from his writings, there must have 
been something very noble about Fielding as 
a man. He was a better hero than any that 
he drew. Alone he accepted the task of 
cleansing London, at that time the most 
dangerous and lawless of European capitals. 
Hogarth's pictures give some notion of it 
in the pre-Fielding days, the low roughs, 
the high-born bullies, the drunkenness, the 
villainies, the thieves' kitchens witll their 
riverside trapdoors, down which the body 
is thrust. This was the Augean stable which 
had to be cleaned, and poor Hercules was 
wea.k and frail and physically more fitted 



ISO THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


for a sick-room than for such a task. It 
cost him his life, for he died at 47, worn 
out with his own exertions. It might well 
have cost him bis life in more dramatic 
fashion, for he had become a marked man 
to the criminal classes, and he headed his 
own search-parties when, on the information 
of some bribed rascal, a new den of villainy 
was exposed. But he carried his point. In 
little more than a year the thing was 
done, and London tUl.ned from the most 
rowdy to what it has ever since remained, 
the most law-abiding of European capitals. 
Has any man ever lef
 a finer monument 
behind him? 
If you want the 1.eal human Fielding you 
,vill find him not in the novels, where his 
real kindliness is too often veiled by a mock 
cynicism, but in his "Diary of his Voyage 
to Lisbon." He knew that his health was 
irl.etrievably ruined and that his years were 
numbered. Those are the days when one 
sees a man as he is, when he has no longer 
a motive for affectation or pretence in the 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR ISI 


immediate presence of the most tremendous 
of all realities. Yet, sitting in the shado\v 
of death, Fielding displayed a quiet, gentle 
courage and constancy of mind, which show 
how splendid a nature had been shrouded 
by his earlier frailties. 
Just one word upon another eighteenth- 
century novel before I finish this somewhat 
didactic chat. You will admit that I 
have never prosed so much before, but the 
period and the subject seem to encourage 
it. I skip Sterne, for I have no great 
sympathy with his finicky methods. And 
I skip 1fiss Burney's novels, as being femi- 
nine reflections of the great masters who 
bad just preceded her. But Goldsmith's 
"Vicar of Wakefield" surely deserves ono 
paragraph to itself. Thel.e is a book which 
is tinged throughout, as was all Goldsmith's 
work, with a beautiful nature. Noone who 
had not a fine heart could have written it, 
just as no one without a fine heart could 
have written" The Deserted Village." How 
strange it is to think of old Johnson 


. 



152 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


patronizing or snubbing the shrinking Irish- 
man, when both in poetry, in fiction, and in 
the drama the latter has proved himself far 
the greater man. But here is an object- 
lesson of how the facts of life may be treated 
without offence. Nothing is shirked. It is 
all faced and duly recorded. Yet if I wished 
to set before the sensitive mind of a young 
girl a book which would prepare her for 
life without in any way contaminating her 
delicacy of feeling, there is no book which 
I should choose so readily as "The Vicar of 
Wakefield. " 
So much for the eighteenth - century 
novelists. They have a shelf of their own 
in the case, and a corner of their own in 
my brain. For years you may never think 
of them, and then suddenly some stray 
word or train of thought leads straight to 
them, and you look at them and love them, 
and rejoice that you know them. But let 
us pass to something which may interest 
you more. 
If statistics could be taken in the various 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 153 


free libraries of the kingdom to prove tho 
comparative popularity of different novelists 
,vith the public, I think that it is quite 
certain that Mr. George Meredith would 
come out very low indeed. If, on the other 
hand, a number of authors were convened to 
determine which of their fellow-craftsmen 
they considered the greatest and the most 
stimulating to their own minds, I am equally 
confident that Mr. Meredith would have a 
vast preponderance of votes. Indeed, his 
only conceivable rival would be Mr. Hardy. 
It becomes an interesting study, therefore, 
why there should be such a divergence of 
opinion as to his merits, and what the 
qualities are which have repelled so many 
readers, and yet have attracted those whose 
opinion must be allowed to have a special 
weight. 
The most obvious reason is his complete 
unconventionality. The public read to be 
amused. The novelist reads to have new 
light thrown upon his art. To read Mereditll 
is not a mere amusement; it is an intellectual 



154 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


exercise, a kind of mental dumb-bell with 
,vhich you develop your thinking powers. 
Your mind is in a state of tension the whole 
time that you are reading him. 
If you will follow my nose as the sports- 
man follows that of his pointer, you will 
observe that these remarks are excited by 
the presence of my beloved " Richard 
Feverel," which lurks in yonder corner. 
What a great book it is, how wise and how 
witty I Others of the master's novels may 
be more characteristic or more profound, 
but for my own part it is the one which 
I would always present to the new-comer 
who had not yet come under the influence. 
r think that I should put it third after 
" Vanity Fair" and "The Cloister and the 
I-Iearth" if I had to name the three novels 
,vhich I admire most in the Victorian era. 
The book was published, I believe, in 1859, 
and it is almost incredible, and says little 
for the discrimination of critics or public, 
that it was nearly twenty years before a 
second edition was needed. 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 155 


But there are never effects without causes, 
however inadequate the cause may be. What 
was it that stood in the way of the book's 
success? Undoubtedly it was the style. 
And yet it is subdued and tempered here 
with little of the luxuriance and exuberance 
which it attained in the later works. But 
it was an innovation, and it stalled off both 
the public and the critics. They regarded 
it, no doubt, as an affectation, as Carlyle's 
had been considered twenty years before, 
forgetting that in the case of an original 
genius style is an organic thing, part of 
the man as much as the colour of his eyes. 
It is not, to quote Carlyle, a shirt to be 
taken on and off at pleasure, but a skin, 
eternally fixed. And this strange, powerful 
style, how is it to be described? Best, 
perhaps, in his own strong words, when he 
spoke of Carlyle with perhaps the a1'Tière 
]Jen8ée that the words would apply as strongly 
to himself. 
"His favourite author," says he, "was 
one ,vriting on heroes in a style resembling 



156 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


either early architecture or utter dilapidation, 
so loose and l"ough it seemed. A wind-in- 
the-orchard style that tumbled down here 
and there an appreciable fruit with uncouth 
bluster, sentences without commencements 
running to abrupt endings and smoke, like 
waves against a sea-wall, learned dictionary 
,vords giving a hand to street slang, and 
accents falling on them haphazard, like slant 
rays from driving clouds; all the pages in a 
breeze, the whole book producing a kind of 
electrical agitation in the mind and joints." 
What a wonderful description and example 
of style I And how vivid is the impression 
left by such expressions as "all the pages 
in a breeze." As a comment on Carlyle, and 
as a sample of 1\ieredith, the passage is 
equally perfect. 
Well, " Richard Feverel " has come into its 
own at last. I confess to having a strong 
belief in the critical discernment of the 
public. I do not think good work is often 
overlooked. Literature, like water, finds its 
true level. Opinion is slow to form, but it 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 157 


sets true at last. I am sure that if the 
critics were to unite to praise a bad book 
or to damn a good one they could (and con- 
tinually do) have a five-year influence, but 
it would in no wise affect the final result. 
Sheridan said that if all the fleas in his bed 
had been unanimous, they could have pushed 
him out of it. I do not think that any 
unanimity of critics has 
ver pushed a good 
book out of literature. 
Among the minor excellences of " Richard 
Feverel "-excuse the prolixity of an enthu- 
siast-are the scattered aphorisms which are 
worthy of a place among our British provel"bs. 
What could be more exquisite than this, 
"Who rises from prayer a better man his 
prayer is answered"; or this, "Expediency 
is man's wisdom. Doing right is God's "; or, 
" All great thoughts come from the heart" ? 
Good are the words "The coward amongst 
us is he who sneers at the failings of 
humanity," and a healthy optimism rings in 
the phrase "There is for the mind but one 
grasp of happiness; from that uppermost 


. 



15 8 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


pinnacle of wisdom whence we see that this 
world is well designed." In more playful 
mood is " Woman is the last thing whicll 
will be civilized by man." Let us hurry 
away abruptly, for he who starts quotation 
from "Richard Feverel " is lost. 
He has, as you see, a goodly line of his 
brothers beside him. There are the Italian 
ones "Sandra Belloni " and "Vittoria '. thore 
, , , 
is "Rhoda Fleming," which carried Stevenson 
off his critical feet; "Beauchamp's Career," 
too, dealing with obsolete politics. No great 
writer should spend himself upon a temporary 
theme. It is like the beauty who is painted 
in some passing fashion of gown. She tends 
to become obsolete along with. hel
 frame. 
Here also is the dainty "Diana," the egoist 
with immortal Willoughby Pattern, eternal 
type of masculine selfishness, and "Harry 
Richmond," the first chapters of which are, in 
my opinion, among the finest pieces of narra- 
tive prose in the language. That great mind 
would have worked in any form which his 
age had favoured. He is a novelist by 



THROUGH 1'HE MAGIC DOOR 159 


accident. As an Elizabethan he would have 
been a great dramatist; under Queen Anne 
a great essayist. But whatever medium he 
worked in, he must equally have thrown the 
image of a great brain and a great soul. 



VIII 


WE have left our eighteenth-century nove- 
lists-Fielding, Richardson, and Smollett- 
safely behind us, with all their solidity and 
their audacity, their sincerity, and their 
coarseness of fibre. They have brought us, 
as you perceive, to the end of the shelf. 
What, not wearied? Ready for yet another? 
Let us run down this next row, then, and I 
will tell you a few things which may be of 
interest, though they will be dull enough if 
you have not been born with that love of 
books in your heart which is among the 
choicest gifts of the gods. If that is wanting, 
then one might as well play music to the deaf, 
or walk round the Academy ,vith the colour- 
blind, as appeal to the book-sense of an 
unfortunate who has it not. 


M 



162 THROUGH THE l\IAGIC DOOR 


There is this old brown volume in the 
COl"ner. How it got there I cannot imagine, 
for it is one of those which I bought for three- 
pence out of the remnant box in Edinburgh, 
and its weather-beaten comrades are up 
yondel" in the back gallery, while this one 
has elbowed its way among the quality in the 
stalls. But it is worth a word or two. Take 
it out and handle it ! See how swarthy it is, 
how squat, with how bullet-proof a cover of 
scaling leather. N ow open the fly-leaf "Ere 
lib1"'is Guilielmi Whyte. 1672 " in faded 
yellow ink. I wonder who William Whyte 
may have been, and what he did upon earth 
in the l'eign of the merry monarch. A prag- 
matical seventeenth-century lawyer, I shoulJ. 
judge, by that hard, angular writing. The 
date of issue is 1642, so it was printed just 
about the time when the Pilgrim Fathers 
were settling down into their new American 
home, and the first Charles's head was still 
firm upon his shoulders, though a little 
puzzled, no doubt, at what was going on 
around it. The book is in Latin-though 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 163 


Cicero might not have admitted it-and it 
treats of the laws of warfare. 
I picture some pedantic Dugald Dalgetty 
bearing it about under his buff coat, or down 
in his holster, and turning up the reference 
for every fresh emergency which occurred. 
" Hullo ! here's a well!" says he. " I 
wonder if I may poison it ?" Out comes the 
book, and he runs a dirty forefinger do\Vll the 
index. "Ob Jas est aquarn hostis venere," etc. 
"Tut, tut, it's not allowed. But here are 
some of the enemy in a barn? What about 
that?" "Ob jas est ltostenl incendio," etc. 
" Yes; he says we may. Quick, Ambrose, up 
with the straw and the tinder box." Warfare 
was no child's play about the time when Tilly 
sacked Magdeburg, and Cromwell turned Ilis 
hand from the mash tub to the sword. It 
might not be much better now in a long 
campaign, when men were hardened and 
embittered. Many of these laws are un- 
repealed, and it is less than a century since 
highly disciplined British troops claimed their 
dreadful rights at Badajos and Rodrigo. 


. 



16 4 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


Recent European wars have been 80 short 
that discipline and humanity have not had 
time to go to pieces, but a long war would 
show that man is evel" the same, and that 
civilization is the thinnest of veneers. 
N ow you see that whole row of books 
,vhich takes you at one sweep nearly across 
the shelf? I am rather pl"oud of those, for 
they are my collection of Napoleonic military 
memoirs. There is a stOI"Y told of an illiterate 
millionaire who gave a wholesale dealer an 
ol"der for a copy of all books in any language 
treating of any aspect of Napoleon's careel... 
He thought it would fill a case in his library. 
He was somewhat taken aback, however, when 
in a few weeks he received a message from 
the dealer that he had got 40,000 volumes, 
and awaited instructions as to whether he 
should send them on as an instalment, or 
wait for a complete set. The figures may not 
be exact, but at least they bring home the 
impossibility of exhausting the subject, and 
the danger of losing one's self for years in a 
huge labYl'linth of l"eading, which may end by 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 16 5 


leaving no very definite impression upon your 
mind. But one might, perhaps, take a corner 
of it, as I have done here in the military 
memoirs, and there one might hope to get 
some finality. 
Helee is Marbot at this end-the first of 
all soldier books in the world. This is the 
complete three-volume French edition, with 
red and gold cover, smart and débonnaire like 
its author. Here he is in one frontispiece 
with bis pleasant, round, boyish face, as a 
Captain of his beloved Chasseurs. And here 
in the other is the grizzled old bull-dog as a 
full general, looking as full of fight as ever. 
It was a real blow to me when some one began 
to throw doubts upon the authenticity of 
Marbot's memoirs. Homer may be dissolved 
into a crowd of skin-clad bards. Even 
Shakespeare may be jostled in his throne of 
honour by plausible Baconians; but the 
human, the gallant, the inimitable Marbot! 
His book is that which gives us the best 
picture by far of the Napoleonic soldiel.s, and 
to me they are even more interesting than 



166 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


their great leader, though his must ever be 
the most singular figure in history. But 
those soldiers, with their huge shakoes, their 
hairy knapsacks, and their hearts of steel- 
what men they were! And what a latent power 
there must be in this French nation which 
could go on pouring out the blood of its sons 
for twenty-three years with hardly a pause! 
It took all that time to work off the hot 
ferment which the Revolution had left in 
men's veins. And they were not exhausted, 
for the very last fight which the French 
fought was the finest of all. Proud as we 
are of our infantry at Waterloo, it was l.eally 
with the French cavalry that the greenest 
laurels of that great epic 1.ested. They got 
the better of our own cavalry, they took our 
guns again and again, they swept a large 
portion of our allies from the field, and finally 
they rode off unbroken, and as full of fight 
as ever. Read Gronow's "J\femoirs," that 
chatty little yellow volume yonder which 
brings all that age back to us more vividly 
than any more pretentious worI{, and you 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 1 6 7 


will find the chivalrous admiration which our 
officers expressed at the fine performance of 
the French horsemen. 
It must be admitted that, looking back 
upon history, we have not always been good 
allies, nor yet generous co-partners in the 
battlefield. The first is the fault of our 
politics, where one party rejoices to break 
what the other has bound. The makers of 
tbe Treaty are staunch enough, as the Tories 
were under Pitt and Castlereagh, or the 
Wbigs at the time of Queen Anne, but sooner 
or later the others must come in. At the end 
of the Marlborough wars we suddenly vamped 
TIP a peace and left our allies in the lurch, 
on account of a change in domestic politics. 
We did the same with Frederick the Great, 
and would have done it in the Napoleonic 
days if Fox could have controlled the country. 
And as to our partners of the battlefield, how 
little we have ever said tbat is hearty as to 
the splendid staunchness of the Prussians at 
Waterloo. You have to read the Frenchman, 
Houssaye, to get a central view and to 



168 THROUGH THE 
iAGIC DOOR 


understand the part they played. Think of old 
Blucher, seventy years old, and ridden over 
by a regiment of charging cavalry the day 
before, yet swearing that he would come to 
Wellington if he had to be strapped to his 
horse. He nobly redeemed his promise. 
The loss of the Prussians at Waterloo was 
not far short of our own. You would not 
know it, to read our historians. And then 
the abuse of our Belgian allies has been over- 
done. Some of them fought splendidly, and 
one bligade of infantry had a share in the 
critical instant when the battle was turned. 
This also you would not learn from British 
sources. Look at our Portuguese allies also! 
They trained into magnificent troops, and one 
of Wellington's earnest desires was to have 
ten thousand of them for his Waterloo cam- 
paign. It was a Portuguese who first topped 
the rampart of Badajos. They have never 
had their due credit, nor have the Spaniards 
either, for, though often defeated, it was their 
unconquerable pertinacity which played a 
great part in the struggle. No; I do not 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 16 9 


think that we are very amiable partners, but 
I suppose that all national history may be 
open to a similar charge. 
It must be confessed that Marbot's details 
are occasionally a little hard to believe. 
N ever in the pages of Lever has there been 
such a series of hairbreadth escapes and dare- 
devil exploits. Surely he stretched it a little 
sometimes. You may remember his adven- 
ture at Eylau-I think it was Eylau-how 
a cannon-ball, striking the top of his helmet, 
paralyzed him by the concussion of his spine; 
and how, on a Russian officer running for- 
ward to cut him down, his horse bit the 
man's face nearly off. This was the famous 
charger which savaged everything until Mar- 
bot, having bought it for next to nothing, 
cured it by thrusting a boiling leg of mutton 
into its mouth when it tried to bite him. It 
certainly does need a robust faith to get 
over these incidents. And yet, when one 
reflects upon the hundreds of battles and 
skirmishes which a Napoleonic officer must 
have endured-how they must have been the 



170 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


uninterrupted routine of his life from the 
first dark hair upon his lip to the first grey 
one upon his head, it is presumptuous to 
say what mayor may not have been possible 
in such unparalleled careers. At any rate, 
be it fact or fiction-fact it is, in my opinion, 
,vith some artistic touching up of the high 
lights-there are few books ,vhich I could 
not spare from my shelves better than the 
memoirs of the gallant Marbot. 
I dwell upon this particular book because 
it is the best; but take the whole line, and 
there is not one which is not full of interest. 
1\Iarbot gives you the point of view of the 
officer. So does De Ségur and De Fezensac 
and Colonel Gonville, each in some different 
branch of the service. But some are from 
the pens of the men in the ranks, and they 
are even more graphic than the others. 
Here, for example, are the papers of good 
old Cogniet, who was a grenadier of the 
Guard, and could neither read nor write 
until after the great wars were o vel.. A 
tougher soldier never went into battle. Here 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 171 


is Sergeant Bourgogne, also with his dread- 
ful account of that nightmare campaign in 
Russia, and the gallant Chevillet, trumpeter 
of Chasseurs, with his matter-of-fact account 
of all that he saw, where the daily" combat H 
is sandwiched in betwixt the real business 
of the day, which was foraging for his frugal 
breakfast and supper. There is no better 
,vriting, and no easier reading, than the 
records of these men of actioll. 
A Briton cannot help asking himself, as 
he realizes what men these were, what would 
have happened if 150,000 Cogniets and Bour- 
gognes, with Marbots to lead them, and the 
great captain of all time in the prime of his 
vigour at their head, had made their landing 
in Kent? For months it was touch-and-go. 
A single naval slip which left the Channel 
clear would have been followed by an em- 
barkation from Boulogne, which had been 
brought by constant practice to so incredibly 
fine a point that the last horse was aboard 
\vithin two hours of the start. Any evening 
Inight have seen the whole host upon the 



172 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


Pevensey Flats. What then ? We kno,v 
what Humbert did with a handful of men in 
Ireland, and the story is not reassuring. 
Conquest, of course, is unthinkable. The 
wOl-ld in arms could not do that. But 
Napoleon never thought of the conquest of 
Britain. He has expressly disclaimed it. 
vVhat he did contemplate was a gigantic raid 
in ,vhich he would do so much damage that 
for years to come England would be occupied 
at home in picking up the pieces, instead of 
having energy to spend abroad in thwarting 
his Continental plans. 
Portsmouth, Plymouth, and Sheerness in 
flames, with London either levelled to the 
ground, or ransomed at his own figure-that 
was a more feasible programme. Then, with 
the united fleets of conquered Europe at 
his back, enormous armies and an inex- 
haustible treasury, swollen with the ransom 
of Britain, be could turn to that conquest 
of America which would win back the old 
colonies of France and leave him mastel- of 
the world. If the worst happened and he 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 173 


had met his Waterloo upon the South Downs, 
he would have done again what he did in 
Egypt and once more in Russia: hurried 
back to France in a swift vessel, and still 
had force enough to hold his own upon the 
Continent. It would, no doubt, have been 
a big stake to lay upon the table-150,OOO 
of his best-but he could play again if he 
lost; while, if he won, he cleared the board. 
A fine game-if little Nelson had not stopped 
it, and with one blow fixed the edge of salt 
water as the limit of Napoleon's power. 
There's the cast of a medal on the top 
of that cabinet which will bring it all close 
home to you. It is taken from the die of 
the medal which Napoleon had arranged to 
issue on the day that he reached London. 
It serves, at any rate, to show that his great 
n1uster was not a bluff, but that he really 
did mean serious business. On one side is 
his head. On the other France is engaged 
in stl.angling and throwing to earth a curious 
fish-tailed creature, which stands for per- 
fidious Albion. "Frappé à Londres" is 



174 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


printed on one part of it, and "La Descente 
dans Angleterre" upon another. Struck to 
commemorate a conquest, it remains now as 
a souvenir of a fiasco. But it was a close call. 
By the way, talking of Napoleon's flight 
from Egypt, did you ever see a curious little 
book called, if I remember right, "Intercepted 
Letters"? No; I have no copy upon this 
shelf, but a friend is more fortunate. It 
shows the almost incredible hatred which 
existed at the end of the eighteenth century 
between the two nations, descending even 
to the Inost petty personal annoyance. On 
this occasion the British Government inter- 
cepted a mail-bag of letters coming from 
French officers in Egypt to their friends at 
home, and they either published them, or 
at least allo,ved them to be published, in 
the hope, no doubt, of causing domestic com- 
plications. Was ever a more despicable 
action? But who knows what other injuries 
had been inflicted to draw forth such a re- 
taliation? I have myself seen a burned and 
mutilated British mail lying where De Wet 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 175 


had left it; but suppose the refinement of 
his vengeance had gone so far as to publish 
it, what a thunder-bolt it might have been! 
As to the French officers, I have read 
their letters, though even after a century 
one had a feeling of guilt when one did so. 
But, on the whole, they are a credit to the 
writers, and give the impression of a noble 
and chivalrous set of men. "\Vhether they 
were all addressed to the right people is 
another matter, and therein lay the poisoned 
sting of this most un-British affair. As to 
the Inonstrous things which were done upon 
the other side, remember the arrest of all the 
poor British tourists and commercials who 
chanced to be in France when the war was 
renewed in 1803. They had l"Un over in all 
trust and confidence for a little outing and 
change of air. They certainly got it, for 
Napoleon's steel grip fell upon them and 
they rejoined their families in 1814. He 
must have had a heart of adamant and a 
will of iron. Look at his conduct over the 
naval prisoners. The natural proceeding 



17 6 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


would have been to exchange them. For 
some l
eason he did not think it good policy 
to do so. AIIl
epresentations from the British 
Government wel'e set aside, save in the case 
of the higher officers. Hence the miseries 
of the hulks and the dreadful prison barracks 
in England. Hence also the unhappy idlers 
of Verdun. What splendid loyalty there 
must have been in those humble Frenchmen 
,vllich never allowed them for one instant 
to turn bitterly upon the author of all their 
great misfol
tunes. It is all brought vividly 
home by the description of their prisons 
given by Borrow in "Lavengro." This is 
the passage- 


"What a strange appearance had those 
mighty casernes, with their blank, blind 
walls, without windows or grating, and their 
slanting roofs, out of which, through orifices 
where the tiles had been removed, would 
be protruded dozens of grim heads, feasting 
their prison-sick eyes on the wide expanse 
of country unfolded from their airy hejght. 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 177 


Ah! there was much misery in those casernes ; 
and from those roofs, doubtless, many a 
,vistful look was turned in the direction of 
lovely France. Much had the poor inmates 
to endure, and much to complain of, to the 
disgrace of England be it said-of England, 
in general so kind and bountiful. Rations 
of carrion meat, and bread from which I 
have seen the very hounds occasionally turn 
away, were unworthy entel
tainment even 
for the most ruffian enemy, when helpless 
and captive; and such, alas! was the fare 
in those casernes. And then, those visits, 
or rather ruthless inroads, called in the slang 
of the place 'stra"\v-plait hunts,' ,vhen ill 
pursuit of a contraband article, which the 
prisoners, in order to procure themselves a 
few of the necessaries and comforts of exist- 
ence, were in the habit of making, red-coated 
battalions were marched into the prisons, 
,vho, with the bayonet's point, carried llavoc 
and ruin into every poor convenience which 
ingenious wretchedness had been endea- 
vouring to raise around it; and then the 
N 



178 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


triumphant exit with the miserable booty, 
and worst of all, the accursed bonfire, on 
the barrack pal"ade of the plait contl"aband, 
beneath the view of glaring eyeballs from 
those lofty roofs, amid the hurrahs of the 
troops frequently dro\vned in the curses 
poured down from above like a tempest- 
shower, or in the terrific war-whoop of 'Vivo 
l'Empereur ! ' " 


There is a little vignette of Napoleon's 
men in captivity. Here is another which 
is worth preserving of the bearing of his 
veterans when wounded on the field of battle. 
It is from Mercer's recollections of the Battle 
of Waterloo. Mercer hacl spent the day 
firing case into the French cavalry at ranges 
from fifty to two hundred yards, losing two- 
thirds of his own battery in the process. 
In the evening he had a look at some of his 
own grim handiwork. 


"I had satisfied my curiosity at Hougou- 
mont, and was retracing my steps up the 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 179 


hill ,vhen my attention ,vas called to a group 
of \vounded Frenchmen by the calm, dignified, 
and soldier-like oration addressed by one of 
them to the l.est. I cannot, like Livy, com- 
pose a fine harangue for my hero, and, of 
course, I could not retain the precise words, 
but the import of them was to exhort them 
to bear their sufferings with fortitude; not 
to repine, like women or children, at what 
overy soldier should have made up his mind 
to suffer as the fortune of ,var, but above all, 
to remember that they were surrounded by 
Englishmen, before ,vhom they ought to be 
doubly careful not to disgrace themselves 
by displaying such an unsoldier-like want of 
fortitude. 
"The speaker was sitting on the ground 
with his lance stuck upright beside him-an 
old veteran with thick bushy, grizzly beard, 
countenance like a lion-a lancer of the old 
guard, and no doubt had fought in many a 
field. One hand was flourished in the air 
as he spoke, the other, severed at the wrist, 
lay on the earth beside him; one ball (case- 



180 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


shot, probably) had entered his body, another 
had broken bis leg. His suffel-iug, after a 
night of exposure so mangled, must have been 
great; yet he betrayed it not. His bearing 
was that of a Roman, or perhaps an Indian 
warriol., and I could fancy him concluding 
appropriately his speech in the words of the 
Mexican king, 'And I too; am I on a bed 
of roses? ' " 


What a load of moral responsibility upon 
one man! But his mind was insensible to 
moral responsibility. Surely if it had not been 
it must have been crushed beneath it. N O"\V, 
if you want to understand the character of 
Napoleon-but surely I must take a fresh 
start before I launch on so portentous a 
subject as that. 
But before I leave the military men let 
me, for the credit of my own country, after 
that infamous incident of the letters, indicate 
these six well-thumbed volumes of "N apiela's 
History." This is the story of the great 
Peninsulal. War, by one who fougllt through 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 181 


it himself, and in no history has a more 
chivalrous and manly account been given of 
one's enemy. Indeed, Napier seems to me 
to push it too far, for his adlniration appears 
to extend not only to the gallant soldiers who 
opposed him, but to the character and to the 
ultimate aims of their leader. He was, in 
fact, a political follower of Charles James 
Fox, and his heart seems to have been with 
the enemy even at the moment when he led 
his men most desperately against them. In 
the verdict of history the action of those men 
who, in their honest zeal for freedom, inflalned 
somewhat by political strife, turned against 
their own country, when it ,vas in truth the 
Champion of Freedom, and approved of a 
military despot of the most uncompromising 
ldnd, seems \vildly foolish. 
But if Napier's politics may seem strange, 
llis soldiering was splendid, and his prose 
among the very best that I know. There 
are passages in that work-the one which 
describes the breach of Badajos, that of the 
charge of the Fusiliers at Albuera, and that 



182 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


of the French advance at Fuentes d'Onoro- 
which once read haunt the mind for ever. 
The book is a worthy monument of a great 
national epic. Alas! for the pregnant sen- 
tence with which it closes, "So ended the 
great war, and with it all memory of tIle 
sel'lvices of the veterans." Was there ever a 
British war of which the same might not 
have been written? 
The quotation which I have given from 
Mercer's book turns my thoughts in the 
direction of the British military reminiscences 
of that peliod, less numerous, less varied, and 
less central than the French, but full of 
character and interest all the same. I have 
found that if I am turned loose in a large 
library, after 11esitating over covers for half 
an hour or so, it is usually a book of soldier 
memoirs which I take down. Man is never 
so interesting as when he is thoroughly in 
earnest, and no one is so earnest as he whose 
life is at stake upon the event. But of a1l 
types of soldier the best is the man who is 
keen upon his work, and yet has genel'al 



THROUGH '[HE 1\IAGIC DOOR 183 


culture which enables him to see that work 
in its due perspective, and to sympathize with 
the gentler aspirations of mankind. Such a 
man is Mercer, an ice-cool fighter, with a 
sense of discipline and decorum which pre- 
vented him from moving when a bombshell 
was fizzing between his feet, and yet a man 
of thoughtful and philosophic temperament, 
with a weakness fOl" solitary musings, for 
children, and for flowers. He has written for 
all time the classic account of a great battle, 
seen from the point of view of a battery 
commander. Many othel"s of Wellington's 
soldiers wrote their personal reminiscences. 
You can get them, as I have them there, in 
the pleasant abridgement of " Wellington's 
1fen" (admirably edited by Dr. Fitchett)- 
Anton the Highlander, Harris the rifleman, 
and l{incaid of the same COl'ps. It is a most 
singular fate which has made an Australian 
nonconformist clergyman the most sympa- 
thetic and eloquent reconstructor of those old 
heroes, but it is a noble example of that unity 
of the British race, which in fifty scattered 



18 4 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


lands still mourns or rejoices over the same 
historic rec01.d. 
And just one word, before I close down 
this over-long and too discursive chatter, on 
tbe subject of yonder twin red volumes which 
flank the shelf. They are Maxwell's " History 
of Wellington," and I do not think you will 
find a better 01. more readable one. The 
reader must ever feel towards the g1.eat soldier 
what his own immediate followers felt, respect 
l.ather than affection. One's failure to attain 
a more affectionate emotion is alleviated by 
the knowledge that it was the last thing 
which he invited or desired. "Don't be a 
damned fool, sir! " was his exhortation to the 
good citizen who had paid him a compliment. 
It was a curious, callous nature, brusque and 
limited. The hardest huntsman learns to 
love his hounds, but he showed no affection 
and a good deal of contempt for the men who 
had been his instruments. "They are the 
scum of the earth," said he. "All Ellglisll 
soldiers are fellows who have enlisted for 
drink. That is the plain fact-they have all 



THROUGI-I TI-IE MAGIC DOOR 185 


enlisted for drink." His general orders were 
full of undeserved reproaches at a time when 
the most lavish praise could hardly have met 
the 1-eal deserts of his army. When the wars 
were done he saw little, save in his official 
capacity, of his old coml-ades-in-arms. AllÙ 
yet, from major-general to drummer-boy, lIe 
was the man whom they would all have 
elected to serve under, had the work to be 
done once more. As one of them said, "The 
sight of his long nose was worth ten thousand 
men on a field of battle." They were them- 
selves a leathery breed, and cared little for 
the gentler amenities so long as the Frencll 
were well drubbed. 
His mind, which was comprehensive and 
alert in \varfare, was singularly limited in 
civil affairs. As a statesman he was so con- 
stant an example of devotion to duty, self- 
sacrifice, and high disinterested character, 
that the country was the better for his 
l)resence. But he fiercely opposed Catholic 
Emancipation, the Reform Bill, and every- 
thing upon which our modern life is founded. 



186 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


He could never be brought to see that a 
pyramid should stand on its base and not on 
its apex, and that the largel. the pyramid, the 
broader should be the base. Even in mili- 
taryaffairs he was averse from every change, 
and I know of no improvements which came 
from his initiative during all those years when 
his authority ,vas supreme. The floggings 
which broke a man's spirit and self-respect, 
the leathern stock which hampered his move- 
ments, all the old traditional régi1ne found a 
champion in him. On the other hand, he 
strongly opposed the introduction of the per- 
cussion cap as opposed to the flint and steel 
in the musket. Neither in war nor in politics 
did he riglltly judge the future. 
And yet in reading his letters and dis- 
patches, one is surprised sometimes at the 
incisive thougllt and its vigorous expression. 
There is a passage in which he describes the 
way in ,vhich his soldiers would occasionally 
desert into some town which he was besieg- 
ing. "They knew," he writes, "that they 
n1ust be taken, for when we lay our bloody 



THROUGH THE :l\lAGIC DOOR 187 


hands upon a place we are sure to take it, 
sooner or later; but they liked being dry and 
under cover, and then that extraordinaTY 
caprice whicIl al\vays pervades the English 
character! Our deserters are very badly 
treated by the enemy; those who deserted 
in France were treated as the lowest of 
mortals, slaves and scavengers. Nothing 
but English caprice can account for it; just 
what makes our noblemen associate with 
stage-coach drivers, and become stage-coach 
drivers themselves." After reading that pas- 
sage, how often does the phrase "the extra- 
ordinary caprice which always pervades the 
English character" come back as one observes 
some fresh manifestation of it ! 
But let not my last note upon the great 
duke be a carping one. Rather let my final 
sentence be one which will remind you of his 
frugal and abstemious life, his carpetless flOOT 
and little camp bed, his precise courtesy 
which left no humblest letter unanswered, 
his courage which never flinched, his tenacity 
which never faltered, his sense of duty whicll 



188 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


made his life one long unselfish effort on 
behalf of what seemed to him to be the 
highest interest of the State. Go down and 
stand by the huge granite sarcophagus in the 
dim light of the crypt of St. Paul's, and in 
the hush of that austere spot, cast back your 
mind to the days when little England alone 
stood firm against the greatest soldier and 
the greatest army that the world has ever 
known. Then you feel what this dead man 
stood for, and you pray that we may still find 
such another amongst us when the clouds 
gatller once again. 
You see that the literature of Watel"loo 
is well represented in my small military 
library. Of all books dealing with the per- 
sonal view of the matter, I think that 
"Siborne's Letters," which is a collection 
of the narratives of surviving officers made 
by Siborne in the year 1827, is the most 
interesting. Gronow's account is also very 
vivid and interesting. Of the strategical 
narratives, Houssaye's book is my favourite. 
Taken from the French point of view, it gets 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 1 8 9 


the actions of the allies in truer perspective 
than any English or German account can do ; 
but there is a fascination about that gTeat 
combat which makes every narrative that 
bears upon it of enthralling interest. 
Wellington used to say that too mucll 
,vas made of it, and that one would imagine 
that the British Army had never fought a 
battle before. It was a characteristic speech, 
but it must be admitted that the British 
Army never had, as a matter of fact, for 
many centuries fought a battle which was 
finally decisive of a great European war. 
Tfhere lies the perennial interest of the inci- 
dent, that it was the last act of that long- 
drawn drama, and that to the very fall of 
the curtain no man could tell how the play 
,vould end-" the nearest run thing that ever 
you saw "-that was the victor's description. 
It is a singular thing that during those 
twenty-five years of incessant fighting the 
material and methods of warfare made so 
little progress. So far as I know, there 
was no great change in either between 


" 



190 THROUGH THE IVIAGIC DOOR 


1789 and 1815. The breech-loader, heavy 
artillery, the ironclad, all great advances in 
the art of war, have been invented in time 
of peace. There are some improvements so 
obvious, and at the same time so valuable, 
that it is extraordinary that they were not 
adopted. Signalling, for example, whether 
by heliograph or by flag-waving, ,voula have 
made an immense difference in the Napoleonic 
campaigns. The principle of the semaphore 
,vas well known, and Belgium, with its 
numerous windmills, would seem to be fur- 
nished with natural semaphores. Yet in the 
four days during which the campaign of 
Waterloo was fought, the whole scheme of 
military operations on both sides was again 
and again imperilled, and finally in the case 
of the French brought to utter ruin by lack 
of that intelligence which could so easily 
have been conveyed. June 18th was at 
intervals a sunshiny day-a four-inch glass 
mirror would have put Napoleon in com- 
munication with Gruchy, and the whole 
history of Europe might have been altered. 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 191 


\Vellington himself suffered dreadfully from 
defective information which might have been 
easily supplied. The unexpected presence of 
the French army was first discovered at four 
in the morning of June 15. It was of enor- 
mous importance to get the news rapidly to 
Wellington at Brussels that he might in- 
stantly concentrate his scattered forces on 
the best line of l.esistance-yet, through the 
folly of sending only a single messenger, this 
vital information did not reach him until 
three in the afternoon, the distance being 
thirty miles. Again, ,vhen Blucher ,vas 
defeated at Ligny on the 16th, it ,vas of 
enormous importance that Wellington should 
know at once the line of his retreat so as to 
prevent the French from driving a wedge 
between them. The single Prussian officer 
\vho was despatched with this information 
was wounded, and never reached his desti- 
nation, and it ,vas only next day that 
Wellington learned the Prussian plans. On 
what tiny things does History depend! 




IX 


THE contemplation of my fine little regiment 
of French military memoirs had brought me 
to the question of Napoleon himself, and you 
see that I have a very fair line dealing with 
him also. There is Scott's life, which is not 
entirely a success. His ink was too precious 
to be shed in such a venture. But here are 
the three volumes of the physician Bourrienne 
-that Bourrienne who knew him so well. 
Does anyone ever know a man so well as 
his doctor? They are quite excellent and 
admirably translated. Meneval also-the 
patient Meneval-who wrote for untold hours 
to dictation at ordinary talking speed, and 
yet was expected to be legible and to make 
no mistakes. At least bis master could not 
fairly criticize his legibility, for is it not 
on recorc1 that when Napoleon's holograph 
o 



194 THROUGH THE rYIAGIC DOO!{ 


account of an engagement was laid before 
the President of the Senate, the worthy 
man thought that it ,vas a dra,vn plan of 
the battle? Meneval survived his master 
and has left an excellent and intimate 
account of him. There is Constant's account, 
also written from that point of view in 
which it is proverbial that no man is a 
hero. But of all the vivid terrible pictures 
of Napoleon the most haunting is by a man 
who never saw him and whose book was 
not directly dealing with him. I mean 
Taine's account of him, in the first volume 
of "Les Origines de la France Contem- 
poraine." You can never forget it when 
once you have read it. He produces his 
offect in a wonderful, and to me a novel, 
,yay. He does not, for example, say in mere 
crude words that Napoleon had a more than 
mediæval Italian cunning. He presents a 
succession of documents-gives a series of 
contemporary instances to prove it. Then, 
having got that fixed in your head by blow 
after blo""r, he passes on to another phase of 



'Y", 



 , 


, 




 


... 


, 



 


-- 


" 


" 


"' 


" 'YES, BCT YOU HAVE O::\IITTED TWO I
 A FORT NEAR DIEPPE.'" 




THROUGH 'fHE MAGIC DOOR 195 


his character, his cold-hearted amorousness, 
his power of work, hlR spoiled child wilfulness, 
or some other quality, and piles up his illus- 
trations of that. Instead, for example, of 
saying that the Emperor had a marvellous 
memory for detail, we have the account of 
the head of Artillery laying the list of all the 
guns in France before his master, who looked 
over it and remarked, "Yes, but you have 
omitted two in a fort near Dieppe." So the 
man is gradually etched in ,vith indelible ink. 
It is a wonderful figure of which you are 
conscious in the end, the figure of an arch- 
angel, but surely of an archangel of darkness. 
We will, after Taine's method, take one 
fact and let it speak for itself. Napoleon left 
a legacy in a codicil to his will to a man who 
tried to assassinate Wellington. There is the 
mediæval Italian again! He was no more a 
Corsican than the Englishman born in India 
is a Hindoo. Read the lives of the Borgias, 
the Sforzas, the 
fedicis, and of all the lustful, 
cruel, broad-minded, art-loving, talented des- 
pots of the little Italian States, including 



196 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


Genoa, from which the Buonapartes migrated. 
Tbere at once you get the real descent of the 
man, with all the stigmata clear upon bim- 
the outward calm, the inward passion, the 
layer of snow above the volcano, everything 
,vhich characterized the old despots of his 
native land, the pupils of Machiavelli, but 
all raised to the dimensions of genius. You 
can whitewash bim as you may, but you will 
never get a layer thick enough to cover the 
stain of that cold-blooded deliberate endorse- 
ment of his noble adversary's assassination. 
Another book which gives an extraordi- 
narily vivid picture of tbe man is tbis one- 
the Memoirs of Madame de Bemusat. She 
,vas in daily contact with bim at the Court, 
and she studied him with those quick critical 
eyes of a clever woman, the most unerring 
things in life when they are not blinded by 
love. If you bave read those pages, you feel 
that you know him as if you bad yourself seen 
and talked with him. His singular mixture 
of the small and the great, his huge sweep of 
imagination, his very limited knowledge, his 



THROUGH TI-IE MAGIC DOOR 197 


intense egotism, his impatience of obstacles, 
his boorishness, his gross impertinence to 
women, his diabolical playing upon the weak 
side of everyone with whom he came in 
contact-they make up among them one of 
the most striking of historical portraits. 
Most of my books deal ,vith the days of 
his greatness, but llere, you see, is a three- 
volume account of those weary years at St. 
Helena. Who can help pitying the mewed 
eagle? And yet if you play the great game 
you must pay a stake. This was the same 
man who had a royal duke shot in a ditch 
because he was a danger to his throne. 
Was not he himself a danger to every throne 
in Europe? Why so harsh a retreat as St. 
Helena, you say? Remember that he had 
been put in a milder one before, that he had 
broken away from it, and that the lives of 
fifty thousand men had paid for the mistaken 
leniency. All this is forgotten now, and the 
pathetic picture of the modern Prometheus 
chained to his rock and devoured by the 
vultures of his own bitter thoughts, is the OIle 


, 



19 8 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


impression which the wOl'ld has retained. It 
is always so much easier to follow the emotions 
tllan the reason, especially where a cheap 
magnanimity and second-hand generosity al'e 
involved. But reason must still insist that 
Europe's treatment of Napoleon was not 
vindictive, and that Hudson Lowe was a 
man who tried to live up to the trust whicl1 
had been committed to him by his country. 
It was cel'tainly not a post from which any 
one would hope for credit. If he wel'e slack 
and easy-going all would be well. But there 
would be the chance of a second flight with 
its consequences. If he were strict and 
assiduous he would be assuredly represented 
as a petty tyrant. " I am glad when you are 
on outpost," said Lowe's general in some 
campaign, "for then I am sure of a sound 
rest." He was on outpost at St. Helena, and 
because he was true to his duties Europe 
(France included) had a sound rest. But he 
purchased it at the price of his own reputation. 
The greatest schemer in the world, having 
nothing else on which to vent his energies, 



THROUGH THE :rvIAGIC DOOR 199 


turned them all to the task of vilifying his 
guardian. It ,vas natural enough that 11e 
who had never known control should not 
brook it now. It is natural also that senti- 
mentalists who have not thought of the details 
should take the Emperor's point of view. 
What is deplorable, however, is that our own 
people should be misled by one-sided accounts, 
and that they should throw to the wolves a 
man who was serving his country in a post of 
anxiety and danger, with such responsibility 
upon him as few could ever have endured. 
Let them remember J\iontholon's remark: 
"An angel from heaven would not have 
satisfied us." Let them recall also that Lowe 
,vith ample material never once troubled to 
state his own case. "de fais 1JlOn devoÙ'I et 
8uis indifférent lJour le 7>esle," said he, in his 
interview ,vith the Emperor. They were no 
idle words. 
Apart from this particular epoch, Fl>encll 
literature, which is so rich in all its branches, 
is richest of all in its memoirs. Whenever 
there was anything of interest going forwarù 



200 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


there was always some kindly gossip who 
knew all about it, and was l-eady to set it 
down for the benefit of posterity. Our own 
history has not nearly enough of these 
charming sidelights. Look at our sailors in 
the Napoleonic wars, for example. They 
played an epoch-making part. For nearly 
twenty years Freedom was a Refugee upon 
the seas. Had our navy been swept away, 
then all Europe would have been one organized 
despotism. At times everybody was against 
us, fighting against their own direct interests 
under the pressure of that terrible hand. We 
fought on the waters with the French, with 
the Spaniards, with the Danes, with the 
Russians, with the Turks, even \vith our 
American kinsmen. 
liddies grew into post- 
captains, and admirals into dotards during 
that prolonged struggle. And what have we 
in literature to sho,v for it all? Marryat's 
novels, many of which are founded upon 
. 
personal experience, Nelson's and Colling- 
wood's letters, Lord Cochrane's biography- 
that is about all. I wish we had more of 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 201 


Collingwood, for he wielded a fine pen. Do 
you remember the sonorous opening of his 
Trafalgar message to his captains ?- 


" The ever to be lamented death of Lord 
Viscount Nelson, Duke of Bronte, the Com- 
n1ander-in-Chief, who fell in the action of the 
21st, in the arms of Victory, covered with 
glory, whose memory will be ever dear to the 
British Navy and the British Nation; whose 
zeal for the honour of his king and for the 
interests of his country will be ever held up 
as a shining example for a British seaman- 
leaves to me a duty to return thanks, etc., 
etc. " 


It was a worthy sentence to carry such a 
message, written too in a raging tempest, 
,vith sinking vessels all around him. But in 
the main it is a poor crop from SUCll a soil. 
No doubt our sailors were too busy to do 
much writing, but none the less one wonders 
that among so many thousands there were not 
some to unde1 9 stand what a treasure their 



202 THROUGI-I THE IVIAGIC DOOI<. 


experiences would be to theil" descendants. I 
can call to mind the old three-deckers which 
used to rot in POl"tsmouth Harbour, and I 
have often thought, could they tell their tales, 
,vhat a missing chapter in our literatlu"e they 
could supply. 
It is not only in Napoleonic memoirs that 
the French are so fortunate. The almost 
equally interesting age of Louis XIV. pro- 
duced an even more wonderful series. If you 
go deeply into the subject you are amazed by 
their number, and you feel as if everyone at 
tIle Court of the Roi Soleil had done what he 
(or she) could to give away their neighbours. 
Just to take the more obvious, there are St. 
Simon's Memoirs-those in themselves give 
us a more comprehensive and intimate vie"\v 
of the age than anything I know of which 
treats of the times of Queen Victoria. Then 
there is St. Evremolld, who is nearly as 
complete. Do you want the view of a 
woman of quality? There are the letters of 
1Iadame de Sévigné (eight volumes of them), 
perhaps the most wonderful series of letters 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 20 3 


that any ,vornan has ever penned. Do YOll 
want the confessions of a rake of the period? 
Here are the too salacious memoirs of the 
mischievous Due de Roquelaure, not reading 
for the nursery certainly, not even for the 
boudoir, but a strange and very intimate 
picture of the times. All these books fit 
into each other, for the characters of the one 
reappear in the others. You come to know 
them quite familiarly before you have finished, 
their loves and their hates, their duels, their 
intrigues, and their ultimate fortunes. If you 
do not care to go so deeply into it you have 
only to put Julia Pardoe's four-volumed 
" Court of Louis XIV." upon your shelf, and 
you will find a very admirable condensation- 
or a distillation rather, for most of the salt is 
left behind. There is another book too-that 
big one on the bottom shelf-which holds it 
all between its brown and gold covers. An 
extravagance that-for it cost me some 
sovereigns-but it is something to have the 
portraits of all that wonderful galaxy, of 
Louis, of the devout 11aintenon, of the frail 


. 



20-1- THROUGH TI-IE l\IAGIC DOOR 


Montespan, of Bossuet, Fénelon, Molière, 
Racine, Pascal, Condé, Turenne, and all the 
saints and sinners of the age. If you want 
to make yourself a present, and chance upon 
a copy of "The Court and Times of Louis 
XIV.," you will never think that your money 
has been wasted. 
Well, I bave bored you unduly, my patient 
friend, with my love of memoirs, Napoleonic 
and otherwise, which give a touch of human 
interest to the arid records of history. N at 
that history should be arid. It ought to be 
the most intel-esting subject upon earth, the 
story of ourselves, of our forefathers, of the 
human race, the events which made us ,vhat 
we are, and wherein, if Weismann's views 
hold the field, some microscopic fraction of 
this very body which for the instant we chance 
to inhabit may bave borne a part. But un- 
fortunately the power of accumulating know- 
ledge and tllat of imparting it are two very 
different things, and the uninspired historian 
becomes merely the dignified compiler of an 
enlarged almanac. Worst of all, when a man 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 205 


does come along with fancy and imagination, 
who can breathe the breath of life into the dry 
bones, it is the fashion for the dryas dusts to 
belabour him, as one who has wandered away 
from the orthodox path and must necessarily 
be inaccurate. So Froude was attacked. So 
also Macaulay in his day. But both will be 
read when the pedants are forgotten. If I 
were asked my very ideal of how history 
should be written, I think I should point to 
those two rows on yonder shelf, the one 
MCCarthy's "History of Our Own Times," 
the other Lecky's "History of England in 
the Eighteenth Century." Curious that each 
should have been written by an Irishman, and 
that though of opposite politics and living in 
an age when Irish affairs have caused such 
bitterness, both should be conspicuous not 
merely for all literary graces, but for that 
broad toleration which sees every side of a 
question, and handles every problem from the 
point of view of the philosophic observer and 
never of the sectarian partisan. 
By the way, talking of history, have you 



206 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


read Pal-kman's works? He was, I think, 
among the very greatest of the historians, 
and yet one seldom hears his name. ANew 
England man by birth, and writing principally 
of the early history of the American Settle- 
ments and of French Canada, it is perhaps 
excusable that he should have no great vogue 
in England, but even among Americans I 
have found many who have not read him. 
There are four of his volumes in green and 
gold down yonder. "The Jesuits in Canada," 
and "Fl-ontenac," but there are others, all 
of them well wOl-th reading, "Pioneers of 
F rance" "Montcalm and W oIfe" " Dis- 
, , 
covery of the Great West," etc. Some day 
I hope to have a complete set. 
Taking only that one book, "The Jesuits 
in Canada," it is worth a reputation in itself. 
And how noble a tribute is this which a man 
of Puritan blood pays to that wonderful Order! 
He shows how in the heyday of their enthu- 
siasm these brave soldiers of the Cross invaded 
Canada as they did China and every other 
place where danger was to be faced, and a 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR '207 


horrible death to be found. I don't care what 
faith a man may profess, or whether he be a 
CbTistian at all, but he cannot read these true 
records without feeling that the very highest 
that man has ever evolved in sanctity and 
devotion was to be found among these mar- 
vellous men. They were indeed the pioneers 
of civilization, for apart from doctrines they 
brought among the savages the highest 
European culture, and in their own deport- 
ment an object-lesson of how chastely, 
austerely, and nobly men could live. France 
has sent myriads of brave men on to her 
battlefields, but in all her long I"ecord of gIOI"Y 
I do not think that she can point to any 
courage so steadfast and so absolutely heroic 
as that of the men of the Iroquois 1\fission. 
How nobly they lived makes the body of 
the book, how serenely they died forms the 
end to it. It is a tale \vhich cannot even no,v 
bo read without a shudder-a nightmare of 
horrors. Fanaticism may brace a man to hurl 
himself into oblivion, as the 
lahdi's hordes 
did before Khartoum, but one feels that it is 



208 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


at least a higher development of such emotion, 
where men slowly and in cold blood endure 
so thankless a life, and welcome so dreadful an 
end. Every faith can equally boast its martyrs 
-a painful thought, since it shows how many 
thousands must have given their blood for 
error-but in testifying to their faith these 
brave men have testified to something more 
impol
tant still, to the subjugation of the 
body and to the absolute supremacy of the 
dominating spirit. 
The story of Father J ogue is but one of 
many, and yet it is worth recounting, as 
showing the spirit of the men. He also was 
on the Iroquois 
1ission, and was so tortured 
and mutilated by his sweet parishioners that 
the very dogs used to howl at his distorted 
figure. He made his way back to France, not 
for any reason of personal rest or recupel
ation, 
but because he needed a special dispensation 
to say Mass. The Catholic Church has a 
l.egulation that a priest shall not be deformed, 
so that the savages with their knives had 
wrought better than tlley knew. He received 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 209 


his dispensation and was sent for by Louis 
XIV., who asked him what he could do for 
him. No doubt the assembled courtiers ex- 
pected to hear him ask for the next vacant 
Bishopric. What he did actually ask for, as 
the highest favour, was to be sent back to the 
Iroquois Mission, where the savages signalized 
his arrival by burning him alive. 
Parkman is worth reading, if it were only 
for his account of the Indians. Perhaps the 
very strangest thing about them, and the most 
unaccountable, is their small numbers. The 
Iroquois were one of the most formidable of 
tribes. They were of the Five Nations, whose 
scalping-parties wandered over an expanse of 
thousands of square miles. Yet there is gooù 
reason to doubt whether the whole five nations 
could have put as many thousand warriors in 
the field. It was the same with all the other 
tribes of Northern Americans, both in the east, 
the north, and the west. Their numbers were 
always insignificant. And yet they had that 
huge country to themselves, the best of 
climates) and plenty of food. Why was it 
p 



210 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


that they did not people it thickly? It may 
be taken as a striking example of the purpose 
and design which run through the affairs of 
men, that at the very moment when the old 
world was ready to overflow the new world 
\vas empty to receive it. Had North America 
been peopled as China is peopled, the 
Europeans might have founded Borne settle- 
ments, but could never have taken possession 
of the Continent. Buffon has made the 
striking remark that the creative powel" 
appeared to have never llad great vigour in 
America. He alluded to the abundance of 
the flora and fauna as compal'ed with that of 
other great divisions of the earth's surface. 
Whether the numbers of the Indians are an 
illustration of the same fact, or whethel' there 
is some special cause, is beyond my very 
modest scientifio attainments. When ODe 
refleots upon the countless herds of bison 
,vhich used to cover the Western plains, or 
marks in the present day the race statistics of 
the French Canadians at one ond of the Con- 
tinent, and of the Southern negro at the 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 211 


other, it seems absurd to suppose that there 
is any geographical reason against Nature 
being as prolific here as elsewhere. However, 
these be deeper waters, and with your leave 
we will get back into my usual six-inch 
wading-depth once more. 


. 




x 


I DON'T know how those two little books got 
in there. They are Henley's " Song of the 
Sword" and" Book of Verses." They ought 
to be over yonder in the rather limited Poetry 
Section. Perhaps it is that I like his work 
so, whether it be prose or verse, and so have 
put them ready to my hand. He was a 
remarkable man, a man who was very much 
greater than his work, great as some of his 
work was. I have seldom known a personality 
more magnetic and stimulating. You left his 
presence, as a battery leaves a generating 
station, charged up and full. He made you 
feel what a lot of work there was to be done, 
and how glorious it was to be able to do it, 
and how needful to get started upon it that 
very hour. With the frame and the vitality 
of a giant he was cruelly bereft of all outlet 



214 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


for his strength, and so distilled it off in hot 
words, in warm sympathy, in strong pre- 
judices, in all manner of human and stimu- 
lating emotions. l\fuch of the time and 
energy which might have built an imperishable 
name for himself was spent in encouraging 
others; but it was not waste, for he left his 
broad thumb-mark upon all that passed be- 
neath it. A dozen second-hand Henleys arc 
fortifying our literature to-day. 
Alas that we bave so little of his very best! 
for that very best was the finest of our time. 
Few poets ever wrote sixteen consecutive 
lines more noble and more strong than those 
which begin with the well-known quatrain- 


"Out of the night that covers me, 
Black as the pit from Pole to Pole, 
I thank whatever Gods there be 
For my unconquerable Boul." 


It is grand literatul
e, and it is grand pluck 
too; for it came from a man who, through no 
fault of his own, had been pruned, and pruned 
again, like an ill-grown sbrub, by the surgeon's 
knife. When he said- 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 2 1 5 


'I In the feU clutch of Circumstance, 
I have not winced nor cried aloud, 
Beneath the bludgconings of Chance 
:My head is bloody but unbowed." 


It was not what Lady Byron called "Tho 
mimic woe" of the poet, but it was rather 
the grand defiance of the Indian warrior at 
the stake, whose proud soul can hold in hand 
his quivering body. 
There wel
e two quite distinct veins of 
poetry in Henley, each the very extreme from 
the other. The one was heroic, gigantic, 
running to large sweeping images and 
thundering words. Such are the "Song of 
the Sword" and much more that he has 
written, like the wild singing of some Northern 
scald. The other, and to my mind both the 
more characteristic and the finer side of his 
work, is delicate, precise, finely etched, with 
extraordinarily vivid little pictures drawn in 
carefully phrased and balanced English. Such 
are the "Hospital Verses," while the "London 
Voluntaries " stand midway between the two 
styles. What! yo l Lave not read the" Hos- 
pital Verses!" Then get the "Book of 



216 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


Verses" and read them ,vithout delay. You 
will surely find something there which, for 
good or ill, is unique. You can name-or at 
least I can name-nothing to compare it with. 
Goldsmith and Crabbe bave written of indoor 
themes; but their monotonous, if majestic 
metre, wearies the modern reader. But this 
is so varied, so flexible, so dramatic. It 
stands by itself. Confound the weekly journals 
and all the other lightning conductors which 
caused such a man to pass away, and to leave 
a total output of about five booklets behind 
him! 
However, all this is an absolute digression, 
for the books had no business in this shelf at 
all. This corner is meant for chronicles of 
various sorts. Here are three in a line, which 
carry you over a splendid stretch of French 
(which usually means European) history, 
each, as luck would have it, beginning just 
about the time when the other leaves off. 
The first is Froissart, the second de Mon- 
strelet, and the third de Comines. When 
you have read the three you have the best 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 217 


contemporary account first hand of consider- 
ably more than a century-a fair slice out of 
the total written record of the human race. 
Froissart is always splendid. If you desire 
to avoid the mediæval French, which only a 
specialist can read with pleasure, you can get 
Lord Berners' almost equally mediæval, but 
very charming English, or you can turn to 
a modern translation, such as this one of 
J ohnes. A single page of Lord Berners is 
delightful; but it is a strain, I think, to read 
bulky volumes in an archaic style. Personally, 
I prefer the modern, and even with that you 
have shown some patience before you have 
reached the end of that big second tome. 
I ,\\Tonder whether, at the time, the old 
Hainault Canon had any idea of what he was 
doing-whether it ever flashed across his mind 
that the day might come when his book would 
be the one great authority, not only about the 
times in which he lived, but about the whole 
institution of chivalry? I fear that it is far 
more likely that his whole object was to gain 
some mundane advantage from the various 



218 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


barons and knights whose names and deeds he 
recounts. He has left it on record, for example, 
that when he visited the Court of England he 
took with him a handsomely-bound copy of 
his work; and, doubtless, if one could follo,v 
the good Canon one would find his journeys 
littered with similar copies which were prob- 
ably expensive gifts to the recipient, for what 
l"eturn would a knightly soul make for a book 
"\vhich enshrined his own valour? 
But without looking too curiously into his 
motives, it must be admitted that the work 
could not have been done more thoroughly. 
There is something of Herodotus in the 
Canon's cheery, chatty, garrulous, take-it-or- 
leave-it manner. But be has the advantage 
of the old Greek in accuracy. Considering 
that he belonged to the same age which 
gravely accepted the travellers' tales of Sir 
John Maundeville, it is, I think, remarkable 
how careful and accurate the chronicler is. 
Take, for example, his description of Scotland 
and the Scotch. Some would give the credit 
to Jean-Ie-bel, but that is another matter. 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 21 9 


Scotch descriptions are a subject over which 
a fourteenth-century Hainaulter might fairly 
be allowed a little scope for bis imagination. 
Yet we can see that the account must on the 
whole have been very correct. The Gallo,vay 
nags, the girdle-cakes, the bagpipes-every 
little detail rings true. Jean-Ie-Bel was 
actually present in a Border campaign, and 
from him Froissart got his material; but he 
has never attempted to embroider it, and its 
accuracy, where we can to some extent test it, 
must predispose us to accept his accounts 
where they are beyond our confirmation. 
But the most interesting pOl-tion of old 
Froissart's work is that which deals with the 
knights and the knight-errants of his time, 
their deeds, their habits, their methods of 
talking. It is true that be lived himself just 
a little after the true heyday of chivalry; but 
he was quite early enough to bave met many 
of the men who bad been looked upon as the 
flower of knighthood of the time. His book 
was read too, and commented on by these very 
men (as many of them as could l-ead), and so 



220 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


we may take it that it was no fancy portrait, 
but a correct picture of these soldiers which 
is to be found in it. The accounts are always 
consistent. If you collate the remarks and 
speeches of the knights (as I have had occa- 
sion to do) you will find a remarkable uni- 
formity running through them. We may 
believe then that this really does represent 
the kind of men who fought at Cl.ecy and at 
Poictiers, in the age when both the French 
and the Scottish kings were prisoners in 
London, and England reached a pitch of 
military glory which has perhaps never been 
equalled in her history. 
In one respect these knights differ from 
anything which we have had presented to us 
in our historical romances. To turn to the 
supreme romancer, you will find that Scott's 
mediæval knights were usually muscular ath- 
letes in the prime of life: Bois-Guilbert, 
Front-de-Bæuf, Richard, Ivanhoe, Count 
Robert-they all were sucb. But occasion- 
ally the most famous of Froissart's knights 
were old, crippled and blinded. Chandos, the 



THRQUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 221 


best lance of his day, must have been over 
seventy when he lost his life through being 
charged upon the side on which he had 
already lost an eye. He was well on to that 
age when he rode out from the English army 
and slew the Spanish champion, big Marten 
Ferrara, upon the morning of N avaretta. 
Youth and strength were very useful, no 
doubt, especially where heavy armour had to 
be carried, but once on the horse's back the 
gallant steed supplied the muscles. In an 
English hunting-field many a doddering old 
man, when he is once firmly seated in his 
familiar saddle, can give points to the 
youngsters at the game. So it was among 
the knights, and those who had outlived all 
else could still carry to the wars their 
wiliness, their experience with arms, and, 
above all, their cool and undaunted courage. 
Beneath his varnish of chivalry, it cannot 
be gainsayed that the knight was often a 
bloody-minded and ferocious barbarian. There 
,vas little quarter in his wars, save when a 
ransom might be claimed. But with all his 



222 THROUGH THE IVIAGIC DQOR 


savagery, 11e was a light-hearted creature, like 
a formidable boy playing a dreadful game. 
Re ,vas true also to his own curious code, 
and, so far as his own class went, his feelings 
were genial and sympathetic, even in warfare. 
There was no personal feeling or bitterness 
as there might be now in a war between 
Frenchmen and Germans. On the contrary, 
the opponents were very soft-spoken and 
polite to each other. "Is there any small 
vow of which I may relieve you?" "Would 
you desire to attempt some small deed of 
arms upon me?" And in the midst of a 
fight they "Tould stop for a breather, and 
converse amicably the while, with many com- 
pliments upon each other's prowess. When 
Seaton the Scotsman had exchanged as many 
blows as he wished with a company of French 
knights, he said, "Thank you, gentlemen, 
thank you! " and galloped away. An English 
knight made a vow, "for his own advance- 
ment and the exaltation of his lady," that he 
would ride into the hostile city of Paris, and 
touch with his lance the inner barrier. The 



THROUGH THE l\IAGIC DOOR 223 


whole story is most characteristic of the 
times. As he galloped up, the French knights 
around the barrier, seeing that he was under 
vow, made no attack upon him, and called 
out to him that he had carried himself well. 
As he returned, however, there stood an 
unmannerly butcher with a pole-axe upon the 
side-walk, who struck him as he passed, and 
killed him. Here ends the chronicler; but 
I have not the least doubt that the butcher 
had a very evil time at the hands of the 
French klligllts, who ,vould not stand by and 
see one of their own order, even if he were 
an enemy, meet so plebeian an end. 
De Comines, as a chronicler, is less quaint 
and more conventional than Froissart, but 
the writer of romance can dig plenty of stones 
out of that quarry for the use of his own littlo 
building. Of course Quentin Durward has 
come bodily out of the pages of De Comines. 
The whole history of Louis XI. and his 
relations with Charles the Bold, the strange 
life at Plessis-Ie-Tours, the plebeian courtiers, 
the barber and the hangman, tho astrologers, 




24 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


the alternations of savage cruelty and of 
slavish superstition-it is all set forth here. 
One would imagine that such a monarch was 
unique, that such a mixture of strange quali- 
ties and monstrous crimes could never be 
matched, and yet like causes will always 
produce like results. Read Walewski's " Life 
of Ivan the Terrible," and you will find that 
more than a century later Russia produced 
a monarch even more diabolical, but working 
exactly on the same lines as Louis, even 
down to small details. The same cruelty, 
the same superstition, the same astrologers, 
the same low-born associates, the same resi- 
dence outside the influence of the great cities 
-a parallel could hardly be more complete. 
If you have not supped too full of horrors 
when you have finished Ivan, then pass on 
to the same author's account of Peter the 
Great. What a land! What a succession 
of monarchs 1 Blood and snow and iron! 
Both Ivan and Peter killed their own sons. 
And there is a hideous mockery of religion 
running through it all which gives it a 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 225 


grotesque horror of its own. We have had 
our Henry the Eighth, but our very worst 
would have been a wise and benevolent rule 
in Russia. 
Talking of romance and of chivalry, that 
tattered book down yonder has as much 
between its disreputable covers as most that 
I know. It is Washington Irving's "Con- 
quest of Grenada." I do not know where 
he got his material for this book-from 
Spanish chronicles, I presume-but the wars 
between the Moors and the Christian knights 
must have been among the most chivalrous 
of exploits. I could not name a book which 
gets the beauty and the glamour of it better 
than this one, the lance-heads gleaming in 
the dark defiles, the red bale fires glowing on 
the crags, the stern devotion of the mail-clad 
Christians, the debonnaire and courtly courage 
of the dashing Moslem. Had Washington 
Irving written nothing else, that book alone 
should have forced the door of every library. 
I love all his books, for no man wrote fresher 
English with a purer style; but of them all 
Q 


. 



226 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


it is still "The Conquest of Grenada" to 
which I turn most often. 
To hark back for a moment to history 
as seen in romances, here are two exotics 
side by side, which have a flavour that is 
new. They are a brace of foreign novelists, 
each of whom, so far as I know, has only 
two books. This green-and-gold volume 
contains both the works of the Pomeranian 
Meinhold in an excellent translation by Lady 
Wilde. The first is " Sidonia the Sorceress," 
the second "The Amber Witch." I don't 
know where one may turn for a stranger view 
of the Middle Ages, the quaint details of 
simple life, with sudden intervals of grotesque 
savagery. The most weird and barbarous 
things are made human and comprehensible. 
There is one incident which haunts one after 
one has read it, where the executioner chafferA 
with the villagers as to what price they will 
give him for putting some young witch to 
the torture, running them up from a barrel 
of apples to a barrel and a half, on the grounds 
that he is now old and l"heumatic, and that 



THROUGH THE l\IAGIC DOOR 227 


the stooping and straining is bad for his back. 
It should be done on a sloping hill, he ex- 
plains, so that the " dear little children" may 
see it easily. Both" Sidonia" and "The 
Amber Witch" give such a picture of old 
Germany as I have never seen elsewhere. 
But l\leinhold belongs to a bygone 
generation. This other author in whom I 
find a new note, and one of great power, is 
1\Ierejkowski, who is, if I mistake not, YOUllg 
find with his career still before him. "The 
Forerunner" and "The Death of the Gods" 
are the only two books of his which I have 
been able to obtain, but the pictures of 
Renaissance Italy in the one, and of declining 
Rome in the other, are in my opinion among 
the masterpieces of fiction. I confess that as 
I read them I was pleased to find how open 
my mind was to new impressions, for one of 
the greatest mental dangers which comes 
upon a man as he grows older is that he 
should become so attached to old favourites 
that he has no room for the new-comer, and per- 
suaùes himself that the days of great things are 


. 



228 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


at an end because his own poor brain is getting 
ossified. You have but to open any critical 
paper to see how common is the disease, but 
a knowledge of literary history assures us that 
it has always been the same, and that if the 
young writer is discouraged by adverse com- 
parisons it has been the common lot from the 
beginning. He has but one resource, which is 
to pay no heed to criticism, but to try to 
satisfy his own highest standard and leave 
the rest to time and the public. Here is a 
little bit of doggerel, pinned, as you see, beside 
my bookcase, which may in a ruffled hour 
bring peace and guidance to some younger 
brother- 


"Critics kind-never mind! 
Critics flatter-no matter! 
Critics blame-all the same! 
Critics curse-none the woröe! 
Do your best- - the rest!" 



XI 


I HAVE been talking in the past tense of heroes 
and of knight-errants, but surely their day 
is not yet passed. vVhen the earth has all 
been explored, when the last savage has 
been tamed, when the final cannon has been 
scrapped, and the world has settled down into 
unbroken virtue and unutterable dulness, men 
will cast their thoughts back to our age, and 
,viII idealize our romance and our courage, 
even as we do that of our distant forbears. 
" It is wonderful what these people did with 
their rude implements and their limited appli- 
ances !" That is what they will say when 
they read of our explorations, our voyages, 
and our wars. 
N ow, take tbat first book on my travel 
shelf. It is Knight's" Cruise of the Falcon." 
Nature was guilty of the pun which put this 


. 



23 0 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


soul into a body so named. Read this sirrlple 
14ecord and tell me if there is anything in 
Hakluyt more wonderful. Two landsmen- 
solicitors, if I remember 14ight-go down to 
Southampton Quay. They pick up a long- 
shore youth, and they embark in a tiny boat 
in which they put to sea. Where do they 
turn up? At Buenos Ayres. Thence they 
penetrate to Paraguay, return to the West 
Indies, sell their little boat there, and so 
home. What could the Elizabethan mariners 
have done more? There are no Spanish 
galleons now to vary the monotony of sucl1 a 
voyage, but had there been I am very certain 
our adventurers wOlùd have had their share 
of the doubloons. But surely it was the 
nobler when done out of the pure lust of 
adventure and in answer to the call of the 
sea, with no golden bait to draw them on. 
The old spirit still lives, disguise it as yon 
will with top hats, frock coats, and all prosaic 
settings. Perhaps even they also will seem 
romantic when centuries have blur1 4 ed them. 
Anotl1er book which shows the 140rnance 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 231 


and the heroism which still linger upon eal.th 
is that large copy of the cc Voyage of the 
Discorer'y in the Antarctic" by Captain Scott. 
"\Vritten in plain sailor fashion with no 
attempt at overstatement or colour, it none 
the less (or perhaps all the more) leaves a 
deep impression upon the mind. As one 
reads it, and l'eflects on what one reads, ono 
seems to get a clear view of just thoso 
qualities which make the best kind of Briton. 
Every nation produces brave men. Every 
nation has men of energy. But there is a 
certain type which mixes its bravery and its 
energy with a gentle modesty and a boyish 
good-humour, and it is just this type which 
is the highest. Here the whole expedition 
seem to have been imbued with the spirit of 
their commander. No flinching, no grumbling, 
every discomfort taken as a jest, no thought 
of self, each working only for the success of 
the enterprise. When you have read of snch 
privations so endured and so chronicled, it 
makes one ashamed to show emotion over 
the small anlloyances of daily life. Read of 



23 2 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


Scott's blindea, scurvy-struck party staggering 
on to their goal, and then complain, if you 
can, of the heat of a northern sun, or the dust 
of a country road. 
That is one of the ,veaknesses of modern 
life. We complain too much. We are not 
ashamed of complaining. Time was when 
it was otherwise - when it was thought 
effeminate to complain. The Gentleman 
should always be the Stoic, with his soul 
too great to be affected by the small troubles 
of life. ' , You look cold, sir," said an English 
sympathizer to a French emigré. The fallen 
noble drew himself up in his threadbare coat. 
" Sir," said he, "a gentleman is never cold." 
One's consideration for others as well as one's 
own self-respect should check the grumble. 
This self-suppression, and also the conceal- 
ment of pain are two of the old noblesse 
oblige characteristics which are now little 
more than a tradition. Public opinion should 
be firmer on the matter. The man who 
must hop because his shin is hacked, or 
wring bis hand because his knuckles are 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 233 


bruised should be made to feel that he is an 
object not of pity, but of contempt. 
The tradition of Arctic exploration is a 
noble one among Americans as well as our- 
selves. The next book is a case in point. 
It is Greely's "Arctic Sel.vice," and it is a 
,vorthy shelf-companion to Scott's" Account 
of the Voyage of the Discovery." There are 
incidents in this book which one can never 
forget. The episode of those twenty-odd 
men lying upon that horrible bluff, and dying 
one a day from cold and hunger and scurvy, 
is one which dwarfs all our puny tragedies 
of romance. And the gallant starving leader 
giving lectures on abstract science in an 
attempt to take the thoughts of the dying 
men away from their sufferings-what a 
picture! It is bad to suffer from cold and 
bad to suffer from hunger, and bad to live 
in the dark; but that men could do all these 
things for six months on end, and that some 
should live to tell the tale, is, indeed, a 
marvel. What a world of feeling lies in the 
exclamation of the poor dying lieutenant: 


. 



234 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


" Well, this is wretched," he groaned, as he 
turned his face to the wall. 
The Anglo-Celtic race has always run to 
individualism, and yet there is none which 
is capable of conceiving and carrying out a 
finer ideal of discipline. There is nothing in 
Roman or Grecian annals, not even the lava- 
baked sentry at Pompeii, which gives a more 
sternly fine object-lesson in duty than the 
young recruits of the British army who went 
down in their ranks on the Birkenlzead. 
And this expedition of Greely's gave rise 
to another example which seems to me hardly 
less remarkable. You may remember, if you 
have read the book, that even when there 
were only about eight unfortunates still left, 
hardly able to move for weakness and hunger, 
the seven took the odd man out upon the 
ice, and shot him dead for breach of dis- 
cipline. The whole grim proceeding was 
carried out with as much method and sign- 
ing of papers, as if they were all within sight 
of the Capitol at Washington. His offence 
had consisted, so far as I can remember, of 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 235 


stealing and eating the thong which bound 
t,vo portions of the sledge together, something 
about as appetizing as a bootlace. It is 
only fair to the commander to say, however, 
that it was one of a series of petty thefts, 
and that the thong of a sledge might mean 
life or death to the whole party. 
Personally I must confess that anything 
bearing upon the Arctic Seas is always of the 
deepest interest to me. He who has once been 
within the borders of that mysterious region, 
which can be both the most lovely and the 
most repellent upon earth, must always retain 
something of its glamour. Standing on the 
confines of known geography I have shot 
the southward flying ducks, and have taken 
from their gizzards pebbles which they have 
swallowed in some land whose shores no 
human foot has trod. The memory of that 
inexpressible air, of the great ice-girt lakes of 
deep blue water, of the cloudless sky shading 
away into a light green and then into a cold 
yellow at the horizon, of the noisy companion- 
able birds, of the huge, greasy-backed ,yater 



236 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


animals, of the slug-like seals, startlingly black 
against the dazzling whiteness of tbe ice-all 
of it will come back to a man in his dreams, 
and will seem little more than some fantastic 
dream itself, so removed is it from the main 
stream of his life. And tben to playa fish a 
hundred tons in weight, and worth two tbou- 
sand pounds-but what in the world has all 
this to do with my bookcase? 
Yet it has its place in my main line of 
thought, for it leads me straight to the 
very next upon the shelf, Bullen's "Cruise of 
the Cacltelot," a book which is full of the 
glamour and the mystery of the sea, marred 
only by the brutality of those who go down 
to it in ships. This is tbe sperm-whale 
fisbing, an open-sea affair, and very different 
from that Greenland ice groping in which 
I served a seven-months' apprenticeship. 
Both, I fear, are things of the past-certainly 
the northern fishing is so, for why sbould 
men risk their lives to get oil when one has 
but to sink a pipe in the ground. It is 
the more fortunate then that it should have 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 237 


been handled by one of the most virile writers 
'\vho has described a sailor's life. Bullen's 
English at its best rises to a great height. 
If I wished to show how high I would take 
that next book down, " Sea Idylls." 
How is this, for example, if you have an 
ear for the music of prose? It is a simple 
paragraph out of the magnificent description 
of a long calm in the tropics. 


"A change, unusual as unwholesome, 
came over the bright blue of the sea. No 
longer did it reflect, as in a limpid mirror 
the splendour of the sun, the sweet silvery 
glow of the moon, or the coruscating clusters 
of countless stars. Like the ashen-grey hue 
that bedims the countenance of the dying, 
a filmy greasy skin appeared to overspread 
the recent loveliness of the ocean surface. 
The sea was sick, stagnant, and foul, from 
its turbid waters arose a miasmatic vapour 
like a breath of decay, which clung clammily 
to the palate and dulled all the senses. 
Drawn by some strange force, from the 



23 8 THROUGH THE lVIAGIC DOOR 


unfathomable depths below, eerie shapes 
sought the surface, blinking glassily at the 
unfamiliar glare they had exchanged for their 
native gloom - uncouth creatures bedight 
with tasselled fringes like weed-growths 
waving around them, fathom-long, medusæ 
with coloured spots like eyes clustering all 
over their transparent substance, wriggling 
worm-like forms of such elusive matter that 
the smallest exposure to the sun melted 
them, and they were not. Lower down, vast 
pale shadows creep sluggisbly along, happily 
undistinguishable as yet, but adding a half- 
familiar flavour to the strange, faint smell 
that hung about us." 


Take the whole of that essay which 
describes a calm in the Tropics, or take the 
other one: "Sunrise as seen from the Crow's- 
nest," and you must admit that there 11ave 
been few finer pieces of descriptive English 
in our time. If I had to choose a sea library 
of only a dozen volumes I should certainly 
give Bullen two places. The others ? Well, 



THROUGH 'THE MAGIC DOOR 239 


it is so much a matter of individual taste. 
"Tom Cringle's Log" should have one for 
certain. I hope boys respond now as they 
once did to the sharks and the pirates, the 
planters, and all the rollicking high spirits of 
that splendid book. Then there is Dana's 
" Two Years before the Mast." I should find 
l"oom also for Stevenson's "Wrecker" and 
" Ebb Tide." Clark Russell deserves t1 
whole shelf for bimself, but anyhow you 
cOlùd not miss out "The Wreck of the 
Grosvenor." Marryat, of course, must be 
represented, and I should pick "Midshipman 
Easy" and "Peter Simple" as his samples. 
Then throw in one of Melville's Otaheite 
books-now far too completely forgotten- 
" r
rypee " or "Omoo," and as a quite modern 
,flavour Kipling's "Captains Courageous" 
and Jack London's" Sea Wolf," with Conrad's 
"Nigger of the Narcissus." Then you will 
have enough to turn your study into a cabin 
anù bring the wash and surge to your ears, 
jf written words can do it. Oh, how one 
longs for it sometimes when life grows too 




40 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


artificial, and the old Viking blood begins to 
stir! Surely it must linger in all of us, for 
no man who dwells in an island but had an 
ancestor in longship or in coracle. Still 
more must the salt drop tingle in the blood 
of an American when you reflect that in all 
that broad continent there is not one whose 
forefather did not cross 3000 miles of ocean. 
And yet there are in the Central States 
millions and millions of their descendants 
who have never seen the sea. 
I have said that" Gmoo" and" Typee," 
the books in which the sailor Melville 
describes his life among the Otaheitans, 
have sunk too rapidly into obscurity. What 
a charming and interesting task there is for 
some critic of catholic tastes and sympathetic 
judgment to undertake rescue work among 
the lost books which would repay salvage! 
A small volume setting forth their names 
and their claims to attention would be 
interesting in itself, and moré interesting 
in the material to which it would serve as 
an introduction. I am sure thel"e are many 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 241 


good books, possibly there are some great 
ones, which have been swept away for a 
time in the rush. What chance, for example, 
has any book by an unknown author which 
is published at a moment of great national 
excitement, when some public crisis arrests 
the popular mind? Hundreds have been 
still-born in this fashion, and are there nono 
which should have lived among them? Now, 
thel'e is a book, a modern one, and written 
by a youth under thirty. It is Snaith's 
"Broke of Covendon," and it scarce attained 
a second edition. I do not say that it is a 
Classic-I should not like to be positive 
that it is not-but I am perfoctly sure that 
the man who wrote it has the possibility of a 
Classic within him. Here is another novel, 
"Eight Days" by Forrest. You can't buy it. 
You are lucky even if you can find it in a 
library . Yet nothing ever written will bring the 
Indian Mutiny home to you as this book will 
do. Here's another which I will warrant you 
never heard of. It is Powell's "Animal 
Episodes.') No, it is not a collection of 
R 


.. 



242 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


dog-and-cat anecdotes, but it is a series of 
very singularly told stories which deal ,vith 
the animal side of the human, and which 
you will feel have an entirely new flavour 
if you have a discriminating palate. The 
book came out ten years ago, and is utterly 
unknown. If I can point to threo in one 
small sbelf, how many lost lights must be 
flitting in the outel- darkness! 
Let me hark back for a moment to the 
subject with which I began, the romance of 
travel and the frequent heroism of modern 
life. I have two books of Scientific Explora- 
tion here which exhibit both these qualities 
as strongly as any I know. I could not 
choose two better books to put into a young 
man's hands if you wished to train him first 
in a gentle and noble firmness of mind, and 
secondly in a great love for and interest 
in all that pertains to Nature. The one is 
Darwin's "Journal of the Voyage of the 
Beagle." Any discerning eye must have 
detected long before the "Origin of Species" 
appeared, simply on the strength of this 



I 


'- 


.... 


CHAHLES ROBERT DÅRWI
, LL.D., F.R.S. 
Fl"flm the l'a;lIt;/I.'1 O!/ tl/(, /lO/l. John ('oll;a. 




THROUGH THE IVIAGIC DOOR 24-3 


book of travel, that a brain of the first 
order, united with many rare qualities of 
character, had arisen. Never was there a 
more comprehensive mind. Nothing was 
too small and nothing too great for its alert 
observation. One page is occupied in the 
analysis of some peculiarity in the web of a 
minute spider, while the next deals with the 
evidence for the subsidence of a continent, 
and the extinction of a myriad animals. 
And his sweep of knowledge was so great, 
botany, geology, zoology, each lending its 
corroborative aid to the other. How a youth 
of Darwin's age-he was only twenty-three 
when in the year 1831 he started round the 
world on the surveying ship Beagle-could 
have acquired such a mass of information 
fills one with the same wonder, and is perhaps 
of the same nature, as the boy musician who 
exhibits by instinct the touch of the master. 
Another quality which one would be less 
disposed to look for in the savant is a fine 
contempt for danger, which is veiled in such 
modesty that one reads between the lines 


, 



244 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


in order to detect it. When he was in the 
Argentine, the country outside the Settle- 
ments was covered with roving bands of horse 
Indians, who gave no quarter to any whites. 
Yet Darwin rode the four hundred miles 
between Bahia and Buenos Ayres, when even 
the hardy Gauchos refused to accompany 
him. Personal danger and a hideous death 
were small things to him compared to a new 
beetle or an undescribed fly. 
The second book to which I alluded is 
Wallace's "
ialay Archipelago." There is 
a strange similarity in the minds of the two 
men, the same courage, both moral and 
physical, the same gentle persistence, the 
same catholic knowledge and wide sweep of 
mind, the same passion for the observation 
of Nature. Wallace by a flash of intuition 
understood and described in a letter to 
Darwin the cause of the Origin of Species 
at the very time when the latter was publish- 
ing a book founded upon twenty yeal-s' labour 
to prove the same thesis. What must have 
been his feelings when he read that letter! 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 245 


And yet he had nothing to fear, for his book 
found no more enthusiastic admirer than the 
man who had in a sense anticipated it. Here 
also one sees that Science has its heroes no 
less than Religion. One of Wallace's mis- 
sions in Papua was to examine the nature 
and species of the Birds-of-Paradise; but in 
the course of the years of his wanderings 
through those islands be made a complete 
investigation of the whole fauna. A foot- 
note somewhere explains that the Papuans 
who lived in the Bird-of-Paradise country 
were confirmed cannibals. Fancy living for 
years ,vith or near such neighbours! Let a 
young fellow read these two books, and he 
cannot fail to have both his mind and his 
spirit strengthened by the reading. 



t L 


...i tt 



XII 


HERE we are at the :final séance. For the 
last time, my patient comrade, I ask you to 
make yourself comfortable upon the old green 
settee, to look up at the oaken shelves, and 
to bear with me as best you may while I 
preach about their contents. The last time! 
And yet, as I look along the lines of the 
volumes, I have not mentioned one out of 
ten of those to which I owe a debt of grati- 
tude, nor one in a hundTed of the thoughts 
which course through my brain as I look at 
them. As well perhaps, for the man who 
has said all that he has to say has invariably 
said too much. 
Let me be didactic for a moment! I 
assume this solemn-oh, call it not pedantic! 
-attitude because my eye catches the small 
but select corner which constitutes my library 



24 8 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


of Science. I \vanted to say that if I were 
advising a young man who was beginning 
life, I should counsel him to devote one 
evening a week to scientific reading. Had 
he the perseverance to adhel'e to his resolu- 
tion, and if he began it at twenty, he woulc1 
certainly find himself with an unusually well- 
furnished mind at thirty, which would stand 
him in right good stead in whatever line of 
life he might walk. When I advise him to 
read science, I do not mean that he should 
choke himself with the dust of the pedants, 
and lose himself in the subdivisions of tho 
Lepidoptera, or the classifications of the di- 
cotyledonous plants. These dreary details 
are the prickly bushes in that enchanted 
garden, and you are foolish indeed if you 
begin your walks by butting your head into 
one. Keep very clear of them until you have 
explored the open beds and wandered do,vn 
every easy path. For this reason avoid the 
text-books, which repel, and cultivate that 
popular science which attracts. You cannot 
hope to be a specialist upon all these varied 



THROUGH THE l\1AGIC DOOR 249 


subjects. Better far to have a broad idea 
of general results, and to understand their 
relations to each other. A very little l
eading 
will give a man such a knowledge of geology, 
for example, as will make every quarry and 
rail\vay cutting an object of interest. A very 
little zoology will enable you to satisfy your 
curiosity as to what is the proper name and 
style of this buff-ermine moth which at the 
present instant is buzzing round the lamp. 
A very little botany will enable you to recog- 
nize every flower you are likely to meet in 
your walks abroad, and to give you a tiny 
thrill of interest when you chance upon one 
which is beyond your ken. A very little 
arcbæology will tell you all about yonder 
British tumulus, or help you to fill in the 
outline of the broken Roman camp upon the 
downs. A very little astronomy will cause 
you to look more intently at the heavens, 
to pick out your brothers the planets, who 
move in your own circles, from the stranger 
stars, and to appreciate the order, beauty, 
and majesty of that material universe which 



25 0 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


is most surely the outward sign of the 
spiritual force behind it. How a man of 
science can be a materialist is as amazing 
to me as how a sectarian can limit the possi- 
bilities of the Creator. Show me a picture 
without an artist, show me a bust without 
a sculptor, show me music without a musi- 
cian, and then you may begin to talk to me 
of a universe without a Universe-maker, call 
Him by what name you will. 
Here is Flammarion's "L'Atmosphère "- 
a very gorgeous though weather-stained copy 
in faded scarlet and gold. The book has a 
small history, and I value it. A young 
Frenchman, dying of fever on the west coast 
of Africa, gave it to me as a professional 
fee. The sight of it takes me back to a little 
ship's bunk, and a sallow face with large, 
sad eyes looking out at me. Poor boy, I 
fear that he never saw his beloved Marseilles 
again r 
Talking of popular science, I know no 
better books for exciting a man's first inte- 
rest, and giving a broad general view of the 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 25 1 


subject, than these of Samuel Laing. Who 
would have imagined that the wise savant 
and gentle dreamer of these volumes was also 
the energetic secretary of a loailway company? 
l\lany men of the highest scientific eminence 
have begun in prosaic lines of life. Herbert 
Spencer was a railway engineer. Wallace 
was a land surveYOl O . But that a man with 
so pronounced a scientific brain as Laing 
should continue all his life to devote his time 
to dull routine work, remaining in harness 
until extreme old age, with his soul still open 
to every fresh idea, and his brain acquiring 
new concretions of knowledge, is indeed a 
remarkable fact. Read those books, and you 
will be a fuller maD. 
It is an excellent device to talk about 
what you have recently read. Rather hard 
upon your audience, you may say; but with- 
out wishing to be personal, I dare bet it is 
more interesting than your usual small talk. 
It must, of course, be done with some tact 
and discretion. It is the mention of Laing's 
works which awoke the train of thought 



25 2 THROUGI-I THE MAGIC DOOR 


,vhich led to these remarks. I had met some 
one at a table d'hßte or elsewhere ,vho made 
some remark about the prehistoric remains 
in the valley of the Somme. I knew all 
about those, and showed him that I did. I 
then threw out some allusion to the rock 
temples of Yucatan, which he instantly picked 
up and enlarged upon. He spoke of ancient 
Peruvian civilization, and I kept well abreast 
of him. I cited the Titicaca image, and he 
knew all about that. He spoke of Quarter- 
nary man, and I was with him all the time. 
Each was more and more amazed at the 
fulness and the accuracy of the information 
of the other, until like a flash the explanation 
crossed my mind. " You are reading Samuel 
Laing's 'Human Origins'! " I cried. So he 
was, and so by a coincidence was I. We 
were pouring water over each other, but it 
was all new-drawn from the spring. 
There is a big two-volumed book at the 
end of my science shelf which would, even 
now, have its right to be called scientific 
disputed by some of the pedants. It is Myers' 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 253 


CC Human Personality." }\fly own opinion, for 
what it is worth, is that it ,viII be recognized 
a century hence as a great root book, one 
from which a whole new branch of science 
will have sprung. Whelee between four covers 
will you find greater evidence of patience, of 
industry, of thought, of discrimination, of that 
sweep of mind which can gather up a thousand 
separate facts and bind them all in the meshes 
of a single consistent system? Darwin has 
not been a more ardent collector in zoology 
than )\fyers in the dim regions of psychic 
research, and his whole hypothesis, so ne\v 
that a new nomenclature and terminology had 
to be invented to express it, telepathy, the 
subliminal, and the rest of it, will always be 
a monument of acute reasoning expressed in 
fine prose, and founded upon ascertained fact. 
The mere suspicion of scientific thought 
or scientific methods has a great charm in 
any branch of literature, however far it may 
be removed from actual research. Poe's 
tales, for example, owe much to this effect, 
though in his case it was a pure illusion. 



254 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


J ules Verne also produces a charmingly 
credible effect for the most incredible things 
by an adept use of a considerable amount of 
}"eal knowledge of nature. But most grace- 
fully of all does it shine in the lighter form 
of essay, where playful thoughts draw their 
analogies and illustrations from actual fact, 
each showing up the other, and the com- 
bination presenting a peculiar piquancy to 
the reader. 
Where could I get better illustration of 
what I mean than in those three little 
volumes which make up Wendell Holmes' 
immortal series, "The Autocrat," "The 
Poet," and" The Professor at the Breakfast 
Table " ? Here the subtle, dainty, delicate 
thought is continually reinforced by the 
allusion or the analogy which shows the wide, 
accurate knowledge behind it. "\Vhat work it 
is, how wise, how witty, how large-hearted 
and tolerant! Could one choose one's 
philosopher in the Elysian fields, as once in 
Athens, I would surely join the smiling group 
who listened to the human, kindly words of 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 255 


the Sage of Boston. I suppose it is just that 
continual leaven of science, especially of 
medical science, \vbich has from my early 
student days given those books so strong an 
attraction for me. Never have I so knO\Vll 
and loved a man whom I had never seen. It 
was one of the ambitions of my lifetime to 
look upon his face, but by the irony of Fate 
I arrived in his native city just in time to lay 
a wreath upon his newly-turned grave. Read 
his books again, and see if you are not 
especially struck by the up-to-dateness of 
them. Like Tennyson's" In Memoriam" it 
seems to me to be work which sprang into 
full flower fifty years beforo its time. One 
can hardly open a page haphazard "\vithout 
lighting upon some passage which illustrates 
the breadth of view, the felicity of phrase, 
and the singular power of playful but most 
suggestive analogy. Here, for example, is a 
paragraph-no better than a dozen others- 
which combines all the rare qualities- 


" Insanity is often the logic of an accurate 



25 6 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


mind overtasked. Good mental machinery 
ought to break its own wheels and levers, if 
anything is thrust upon them suddenly which 
tends to stop them or reverse their motion. 
A weak mind does not accumulate force 
onough to hurt itself; stupidity often saves 
a man from going mad. We frequently see 
persons in insane hospitals, sent there in 
consequence of what are called religious 
mental disturbances. I confess that I think 
better of them than of many who hold the 
sarno notions, and keep their wits and enjoy 
life very well, outside of the asylums. Any 
decent person ought to go mad if he roally 
holds such and such opinions. . . . Anything 
that is brutal, cruel, heathenish, that makes 
life hopeless for the most of mankind, and 
perhaps for entire races - anything that 
assumes the necessity for the extermination 
of instincts which were given to be regulated 
-no matter by what name you call it-no 
matter whether a fakir, or a monk, or a deacon 
believes it-if received, ought to produce 
insanity in every well-regulated mind." 



THROUGH THE Mi\GIC DOOR 257 


There's a fine bit of breezy polemics for 
the dreary fifties-a fine bit of moral courage 
too for the University professor who ventured 
to say it. 
I put him above Lamb as an essayist, 
because there is a flavour of actual knowledge 
and of practical acquaintance with the 
problems and affairs of life, which is lacking 
in the elfin Londoner. I do not say that 
the latter is not the rarer quality. There 
are my "Essays of Elia," and they are 
well-thumbed as you see, so it is not be- 
cause I love Lamb less that I love this other 
more. Both are exquisite, but Wendel1 
Holmes is for ever touching some note which 
awakens an answering vibration within my 
own mind. 
The essay must always be a somewhat 
repellent form of literature, unless it be 
handled with the lightest and deftest touch. 
It is too reminiscent of the school themes of 
our boyhood-to put a heading and then to 
show what YOll can get under it. Even 
Stevenson, for whom I have the most profound 
s 


, 



258 THROUGH THE l\IAGIC DOOR 


admil-ation, finds it difficult to carry the 
reader through a series of such papers, adorned 
with his original thought and quaint turn of 
phrase. Yet his "Men and Books" and 
'c Virginibus Puerisque" are high examples 
of what may be done in spite of the inherent 
unavoidable difficulty of the task. 
But his style! Ah, if Stevenson had 
only realized how beautiful and nervous 
was his own natural God-given style he 
would never have been at pains to acquire 
another! It is sad to read the much-lauded 
anecdote of his imitating this author and 
that, picking up and dropping, in search of 
the best. The best is always the most 
natural. When Stevenson becomes a con- 
scious stylist, applauded by so many critics, 
he seems to me like a man who, having 
most natural curls, will still conceal them 
under a wig. The moment he is precious he 
loses his grip. But when he will abide by his 
own sterling Lowland Saxon, with the direct 
word and the short, cutting sentence, I know 
not where in recent years we may find his 



-- 


UOBERT LO'['IS STEVE

O
. 
From tlte Painting by :'ir William /Jlal'c RidllllIJwl, K.C'./J., P...I. 


T 


. 



THROUGH THE l\IAGIC DOOR 259 


mate. In this strong, plain setting the 
occasional happy word shines like a cut 
jewel. A really good stylist is like Beau 
Brummell's description of a well-dressed 
man-so dressed that no one would ever 
observe bim. The moment you begin to 
remark a man's style the odds are that 
there is something the matter with it. It 
is a clouding of the crystal-a diversion of 
the reader's mind from the matter to the 
manner, from the author's subject to the 
author himself. 
No, I have not the Edinburgh edition. 
If you think of a presentation-but I should 
be the last to suggest it. Perhaps on the 
whole I would prefer to have him in scattered 
books, rather than in a complete set. The 
balf is more than the whole of most authors, 
and not the least of him. I am sure that 
his friends who reverenced his memory had 
good warrant and express instructions to 
publish this complete edition-very possibly 
it was arranged before his lamented end. 
Yet, speaking generally, I woulJ say tbat 



260 1"'HROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


an author ,vas best served by being very 
carefully pruned before being exposed to the 
winds of time. Let every weak twig, every 
immature shoot be shorn away, and nothing 
but strong, sturdy, well-seasoned branches 
left. So shall the whole tree stand stI'ong 
for years to come. How false an impression 
of the true Stevenson would our critical 
grandchild acquire if he chanced to pick 
down anyone of half a dozen of these 
volumes! As we watched his hand stray 
down the I'ank how we would pray that 
it might alight upon the ones we love, on 
the "New Arabian Nights," "The Ebb- 
tide," "The WI'ecker," "Kidnapped," or 
"Treasure Island." These can surely never 
lose their charm. 
What noble books of their class are those 
last, " Kidnapped" and "Treasure Island " ! 
both, as you see, shining forth upon my 
lower shelf. "Treasure Island" is the 
better story, while I could imagine that 
" Kidnapped" might have the more per- 
Inanent value as being an excellent and 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 261 


graphic sketch of the state of the Highlands 
after the last Jacobite insurrection. Each 
contains one novel and admirable character, 
Alan Breck in the one, and Long John in 
the otber. Surely John Silver, with his 
face the size of a ham, and bis little gleam- 
ing eyes like crumbs of glass in tbe centre 
of it, is the king of all seafaring desperadoes. 
Observe how the strong effect is produced 
in his case, seldom by direct assertion on 
the part of the story-teller, but usually by 
comparison, innuendo, or indirect reference. 
The objectionable Billy Bones is haunted b
y 
the dl"ead of " a seafaring man with one leg." 
Captain Flint, we are told, wa
 a b,rave 
man; "he was afraid of none, not he, only 
Silver-Silver was that genteel." Or, again, 
where Jobn himself says, "there was some 
that was feared of Pew, and some that was 
feared of Flint; but Flint his own self was 
feared of me. Feared be was, and proud. 
They was the roughest crew afloat was 
Flint's. The devil himself would have been 
feared to go to sea with them. Well, now, 



262 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


I will tell you. I'm not a boasting man, 
and you seen yourself how easy I keep 
company; but when I was quartermaster, 
lambs wasn't the word for Flint's old bucca- 
neers." So by a touch here, and a hint 
there, there grows upon us the individuality 
of the smooth-tongued, ruthless, masterful, 
one-legged devil. He is to us not a creation 
of fiction, but an organic living reality with 
whom we have come in contact; such is 
the effect of the fine suggestive strokes with 
which he is drawn. And the buccaneers 
themselves, how simple, and yet how effec- 
tive are the little touches which indicate 
their ways of thinking and of acting. " I 
want to go in that cabin, I do; I want 
their pickles and wine and that." "Now, 
if you had sailed along 0' Bill you wouldn't 
have stood there to be spoke twice-not you. 
That was never Bill's way, not the way of 
Bich as sailed with him." Scott's buccaneers 
in "The Pirate" are admirable, but they 
lack something human which we :find here. 
It will be long before John Silver loses his 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 263 


place in sea fiction, "and you may lay to 
that. " 
Stevenson was deeply influenced by Mere- 
dith, and even in these books the influence 
of the master is apparent. There is the 
apt use of an occasional archaic or unusual 
word, the short, strong descriptions, the 
striking metaphors, the somewhat staccato 
fashion of speech. Yet, in spite of this 
flavour, they have quite individuality enough 
to constitute a school of their own. Their 
faults, or rather perhaps their limitations, 
lie never in the execution, but entirely in 
the original conception. They picture only 
one side of life, and that a strange and 
exceptional one. There is no female interest. 
We feel that it is an apothesis of the boy- 
story-the penny number of our youth in 
eæcelsis. But it is all so good, so fresh, so 
picturesque, that, however limited its scope, 
it still retains a definite and well-assured 
place in literature. There is no reason why 
"Treasure Island" should not be to the 
rising generation of the twenty-first century 



26 4 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


what "Robinson Crusoe" has been to that 
of the nineteenth. The balance of pro- 
bability is all in that direction. 
The modern masculine novel, dealing 
almost exclusively with the rougher, more 
stirring side of life, with the objective rather 
than the subjective, marks the reaction 
against the abuse of love in fiction. This 
one phase of life in its orthodox aspect, and 
ending in the conventional marl-iage, has 
been so 11ackneyed and worn to a sh a do,," , 
that it is not to be wondered at that there 
is a tendency sometimes to swing to the 
other extreme, and to give it less tllan its 
fair sha1 g e in the affairs of men. In British 
fiction nine books out of ten have held up 
love and marriage as the be-all and end-all 
of life. Yet we know, in actual practice, 
that this may not be so. In the career of 
the average man his marriage is an incident, 
and a momentous incident; but it is only 
one of several. He is swayed by many 
strong emotions; his business, his ambi- 
tions, his friendships, his struggles with the 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 265 


recurrent dangers and difficulties which tax a 
man's wisdom and his COUI"age. Love will 
often play a subordinate part in his life. 
How many go through the world without 
ever loving at all? It jars upon us then 
to have it continually held up as the pre- 
dominating, all-important fact in life; and 
there is a not unnatural tendency among 
a certain school, of which Stevenson is 
certainly the leader, to avoid altogether R 
source of interest which l1as been so mis- 
used and overdone. If all love-making were 
like that between Richard Feverel and Lucy 
Desborough, then indeed we could not have 
too much of it; but to be made attractive 
once more, the passion must be handled by 
some great master who has courage to break 
down conventionalities and to go straight to 
actual life for his inspiration. 
The use of novel and piquant forms of 
speech is one of the most obvious of Steven- 
son's devices. No man handles his adjectives 
with greater judgment and nicer discrimina- 
tion. There is hardly fL page of his work 


" 



266 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 


where we do not come across words and 
expressions which strike us with a pleasant 
sense of novelty, and yet express the mean- 
ing with admirable conciseness. "His eyes 
came coasting round to me." It is dangerous 
to begin quoting, as the examples are in- 
terminable, and each suggests another. Now 
and then he misses his mark, but it is very 
seldom. As an example, an " eye-shot " does 
not commend itself as a substitute for "a 
glance," and "to tee-hee" for "to giggle" 
grates somewhat upon the ear, though the 
authority of Chaucer might be cited for the 
expressIons. 
N ext in order is his extraordinary faculty 
for the use of pithy similes, which arrest the 
attention and stimulate the imagination. 
"His voice sounded hoarse and awkward, 
like a rusty lock." "I saw her sway, like 
something stricken by the wind." " His 
laugh rang false, like a cracked belL" " His 
voice shook like a taut rope." "My mind 
flying like a weaver's shuttle." "His blows 
resounded on the grave as thick as sobs." 



THROUGH THE ì\IAGIC DOOR 267 


"The private guilty considerations I would 
continually observe to peep forth in the 
man's talk like rabbits from a hill." Nothing 
could be more effective than these direct 
and homely comparisons. 
After all, however, the main characteristic 
of Stevenson is his curious instinct for saying 
in the briefest space just those few words 
which stamp the impression upon the reader's 
mind. He will make you see a thing more 
clearly than you would probably have done 
had your eyes actually rested upon it. Here 
are a few of these word-pictures, taken hap- 
hazard from among hundreds of equal merit- 


" Not far off 
facconochie was standing 
with his tongue out of his mouth, and his 
hand upon his chin, like a dull fellow think- 
ing hard. 
"Stewart ran after us for more than a 
mile, and I could not help laughing as I 
looked back at last and saw him on a hill, 
holding bis band to his side, and nearly burst 
with running. 


,. 



268 THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOl{ 


"Ballantrae turned to me with a face all 
wrinkled up, and his teeth all showing in 
his mouth. . . . He said no word, but his 
whole appearance was a kind of dreadful 
question. 
" Look at him, if you doubt; look at him, 
grinning and gulping, a detected thief. 
"He looked me allover with a warlike 
eye, and I could see the challenge on his 
lips. " 


"\Vhat could be more vivid than the effect 
produced by such sentences as these? 
There is much more that might be 
said as to Stevenson's peculiar and original 
methods in fiction. As a minor point, it 
might be remarked that he is the inventor 
of "\vhat may be called the mutilated villain. 
It is true that Mr. Wilkie Collins has de- 
scribed one gentleman who had not only 
been deprived of all his limbs, but was 
further afflicted by the insupportable name 
of 1Iiserrimus Dexter. Stevenson, how- 
ever, has nsed the effect 80 often, and with 



THROUGH THE l\IAGIC DOOR 269 


such telling results, that he may be said to 
have made it his own. To say nothing of 
Hyde, who was the very impersonation of 
deformity, there is the horrid blind Pew, 
Black Dog with two fingers missing, Long 
John with his one leg, and the sinister 
catechist who is blind but shoots by ear, 
and smites about him with his staff. In 
"rrhe Black Arrovl," too, there is another 
dIeadful creature who comes tapping along 
with a stick. Often as he has used the 
device, he handles it so artistically that it 
never fails to produce its effect. 
Is Stevenson a classic? Well, it is a 
large 
Tord that. You mean by a classic a 
piece of work which passes into the per- 
manent literature of the country. As a rtùe 
you only know your classics when they are 
in their graves. Who guessed it of Poe, 
and who of Borrow? The Roman Catholics 
only canonize their saints a century after 
their death. So with our classics. The 
choice lies with our grandchildren. But I 
can hardly think that healthy boys ,vil1 ever 



,270 THROUGH THE l\IAGIC DOOR 


let Stevenson's books of adventure die, nor 
do I think that such a short tale as "The 
Pavilion on the Links" nor so magnificent 
a parable as "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" 
will ever cease to be esteemed. How well 
I remember the eagerness, the delight with 
which I read those early tales in " Cornhill " 
away back in the late seventies and early 
eighties. They were unsigned, after the old 
unfair fashion, but no man with any sense 
of prose could fail to know that they were 
all by the same author. Only years after- 
wards did I learn who that author was. 
I have Stevenson's collected poems over 
yonder in the small cabinet. Would that he 
had given us more! Most of them are the 
merest playful sallies of a freakish mind. But 
one should, indeed, be a classic, for it is in 
my judgment by all odds the best narrative 
ballad of the last century-that is if I am 
right in supposing that " The Ancient 
Mariner" appeared at the very end of the 
eighteenth. I would put Coleridge's tour de 
force of grim fancy first, but I know none 
. 



THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR 271 


other to compare in glamour and phrase and 
easy power with " Ticonderoga." Then there 
is his immortal epitaph. The two pieces alone 
give him a niche of his own in our poetical 
literature, just as his character gives bim a 
niche of his own in our affections. No, I 
never met him. But among my most prized 
possessions are several letters which I received 
from Samoa. From that distant tower he 
kept a surprisingly close watch upon what 
was doing among the bookmen, and it was 
his hand which was among the first held out 
to the striver, for he had quick appreciation 
and keen sympathies which met another 
man's work half way, and wove into it a 
beauty from his own mind. 
And now, my very patient friend, the time 
has come for us to part, and I hope my little 
sermons have not bored you over-much. If 
I have put you on the track of anything which 
you did not know before, then verify it and 
pass it on. If I have not, there is no harm 
done, save that my breath and your time 
have been wasted. There may be a score of 


. 



27 2 THROUGH THE lVIAGIC DOOR 


mistakes in what I have said-is it not the 
privilege of the conversationalist to misquote? 
My judgments may differ very far from yours, 
and my likings may be your abhorrence; but 
the mere thinking and talking of books is in 
itself good, be the upshot what it may. For 
the time the magic door is still shut. You 
are still,in the land of færie. But, alas, though 
you shut that door, you cannot seal it. Still 
come the ring of bell, the call of telephone, 
the summons back to the sordid world of 
work and men and daily strife. Well, that's 
the real life after all-this only the imitation. 
And yet, now that the portal is wide open 
and we stride out togethel., do we not face 
our fate with a braver heart for all the rest 
and quiet and comradeship that we found 
behind the Magic Door? 



INDEX 


Addison, Joseph, 5, 11, 128 
Allen, Grant, 120 
Arnold, :J\Iatthew, q'lwtcd, 16, 17 
Balzac, 93 
Barr, Robert, 104 
Borrow, George, 91-103, 134-5; 
quoted, 97-101, 176-8 
Boswell, 47-50,59,62,76; quoted, 
51-4,58 
Bröntes, the, 92 
Browning, Robert, 42 
Bullen, F. T., 236-8 
Burney, :J\Iiss, 136, 151 
Burns, Robert, 42 
Byron, Lord, 7, 42 
Carlyle, Thomas, 6, 155-6 ; 
quoted, 19 
Cellini, Benvenuto, 82,84, 130-1 
Coleridge, S. T., 270; quoted, 19 
Collingwood's Letters, 200 ; 
quoted, 201 
Collins, Wilkie, 268 
Conrad, Joseph, 239 
Crane, Stephen, 43 
Darwin, Charles, 242-4 
Daudet, Alphonse, 44 
Dickens, Charles, 26, 43, 113 
Dumas, Alexander, 93 
Fielding, Henry, 113, 13G-151 
Fitchett, Dr., 183 
Flammarion, C., 250 
Forrest, R. R., 241 


Frederic, Harold, 43 
Froissart,216-23 
Froude, J. A., 205 
Gibbon, Edward, 6, 55, 57, 65- 
83; quoted, 77-8 
Goldsmith, Oliver, 57, 136, 151- 
2; quoted, 20 
Gray, Thomas, 54-5 
Greely, A. \V., 233-5 
Gronow, Capt., 166, 188 
Hardy, Thomas, 153 
Harte, Bret, 113, 116 
Hawthorne, Natha.niel, 119-120 
Heine, Heinrich, 44 
Henley, \V. E., 213-215 
Hoga.rth, William, 142 
Holmes, Wendell, 23, 254-7 
Houssaye, A., 167, 188-9 
Howe, J ulia Ward, 29 
Hugo, Victor, 24 
Hume, David, 63 


Irving, Henry, 92 
Irving, Washington, 225-6 
Jeffreys, Judge, 34 
Johnson, Samuel, 7-10, 47-64, 
78-9, 151; quoted, 54-6 
Kipling, Rudyard, 118 119, 239 


Laing, Samuel, 251-2 
Lamb, Charles, 257 
Lecky, \V. E. H., 205 


T 



274 


INDEX 


Lockhart, J. G., 37, 39, 45 
London, Jack, 239 
Lytton, Bulwer, 120 

Iacaulay, Lord, 6-9, 11, 15, 17, 
20, 48-9, 56, 144, 205; quoted, 
10,12-14,16 
!\{cCarthy, Justin, 205 
Marbot's Memoirs, 165-6, 169- 
70 
Marryatt, Capt., 239 
Maupassant, G. de, 122-5 
}Iaxwell's u Wellington," 184-5 
Melville, Herman, 239-41 
Mercer's Recollections, 182-4; 
quoted, 178-80 
Meredith, George, 153-4, 263; 
quoted, 155-8 
:rrlerriman, H. S., 43 
1tlyers' IC Human Personality," 
252-3 


Napier's II Peninsula.r War," 
180-2 
Napoleon Buonaparte, 171-5, 
193-9; quoted, 58 
Nelson, Lord, 27 
N orris, Frank, 42 


Parkman, F., 206-10 
Pa.yn, James, quoted, 23 
Pepys, Samuel, 83-9 
Poe, Edgar Allan, 113-116, 120- 
1, 125, 253; quoted, 126-7 
Powell's II Animal Episodes," 
241-2 
u Pugilistica," 104-112 


Quiller-Couch, A. T., 120 
Reade, Charles, 113, 127-132 
Rémusat, 1Iadame de, 196-7 


Richardson, Samuel, 136-149 
Rogers, Samuel, 42 
Rousseau, J. J., 55, 82, 84 
Russell, W. Clark, 239 


Scott, Capt. R. F., 231-3 
Scott, Sir Walter, 15, 20, 22-7, 
30-46,60,113,134-5,145,193, 
262 
Sévigné, l\Iadame de, 202-3 
Shakespeare, \Villiam, 2, 24, 43- 
4,54,165 
Shelley, P. B., 42 
Sheridan, R. B., quoúd, 157 
Siborne's U Letters," 188 
Smollett, T., 136-8, 148-9 
Snaith's II Broke of Covenden," 
241 
Southey, Robert, 7, 102 
Spencer, Herbert, 251 
Sterne, Lawrence, 136, 151 
Stevenson, Robert Louis, 43, 
113,116-118,239,257-60,265, 
268-72; quoted, 261-3, 266-7 
Swift, Jonathan, 5, 55 


Taine, Henri, 194-5 
Tennyson, Lord, 42, 255 
Tha.ckeray, W. 1\1., 25, 43, 113, 
128-9, 154 
Tolstoi, Conlte Leon, 129 
Trollope, Anthony, 82 


Verne, Jules, 254 
Volta.ire, F. Arouet de, 55 


Walla.ce, A. B., 244-5 
Wellington, Duke of, 183-191, 
195; quoted, 186-7 
Wells, H. G., 120 
Wordsworth, William, 42 


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Doyle, () Arthur Conan, 
Sir, 1859-1930 
Through the magic 
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